"The General ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military Merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding." - General George Washington (1788).
August 7 each year is a day that is set aside to pause and remember those men and women who were combat wounded, who paid the ultimate price in serving our country during time of war or who later died from combat-related injuries. The medal given to these patriots is the Purple Heart.
Most people are not aware that the Purple Heart medal has the distinction of being the oldest medal awarded to military personnel. On August 7, 1782, General George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit as a means to honor non-commissioned and enlisted soldiers who exhibited "not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way.”
The badge was designed as a “decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with a narrow binding of silver, with the word Merit stitched across the face in silver.“ It was to be placed on a sash that would be worn on the recipient's uniform and could easily be seen by other soldiers. Records indicate the award was given to only three recipients.
The Badge of Military Merit went out-of-service after the Revolutionary War but General Douglas MacArthur initiated a project to bring back the award. Eventually, President Herbert Hoover signed an Executive Order so that “the Purple Heart was revived on the 200th Anniversary of George Washington's birth, out of respect to his memory and military achievements, by War Department General Orders No. 3, dated February 22, 1932.”
Several changes have been made in legislation regarding how the medal is awarded. Shortly after 1932, a regulation removed the “military achievements” phrase from the award and limited the Purple Heart to that which we are familiar with today: given to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who had been wounded, killed, or who had died after being wounded, retroactive to April 5, 1917. President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1942 allowing the Purple Heart to be awarded to Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel.
The Department of Defense (DOD) announced on October 6, 2008 that it had expanded the Purple Heart eligibility criteria allowing prisoners-of-war who died in captivity to receive the award.
And on April 28, 2011, the DOD clarified existing criteria of military personnel to receive the Purple Heart for mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions. Specifically, “the injury must have been caused by enemy action or in action against the enemy and has to be of a degree requiring treatment by a medical officer.” More detailed information on the award for this injury is written in a document published by the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH).
MOPH is an organization chartered by Congress in 1958 for those men and women who have received the Purple Heart Medal. They also provide support to “all veterans and their families with a myriad of nation-wide programs by Chapters and National Service Officers.” Chapter 1919 of MOPH is located here in Austin, Texas.
Texas provides one of the most extensive number of benefits for military personnel and veterans in the U.S. And Texas has even dedicated a section of Interstate Highway 35 south of Austin, Texas as the “Purple Heart Trail”.
Various celebrations were held across the country on August 7, 2014. One of the more prominent ones was held in Woodstock, Ill. where a Purple Heart monument was dedicated at the McHenry County Courthouse.
Unfortunately, though, no recognition of Purple Heart Day was made by the City of Austin nor by the State of Texas. We Texans who have shed blood for our country are disappointed with this news.