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History of The Purple Heart

Posted by Kelvin Adikwu on

History of The Purple Heart

For servicemen and women, the Purple Heart lives right next to the Holy Grail. Created by General George Washington in 1782, the Purple Heart began as an honor called the Badge of Military Merit.

This honor was ONLY presented to enlisted soldiers who perform or had performed a “singularly meritorious action”. At the time, just a handful of these were awarded, and following the American Revolution, the Purple Heart seemed very much like it wouldn't become the rather important honor it is today. 

However, in 1932, the Purple Heart award was created to honor the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday. Thus rekindling the seemingly dying spirit of the Badge of Military Merit.

As the world experienced its first war - World War One - the Purple Heart was reborn, awarded and presented to soldiers for the first time on the site of the final encampment of the Continental Army in Windsor, New York.

By World War Two, the Purple Heart had changed from an award for a singular meritorious service to one honoring the servicemen injured or killed in combat. Over the years, the criteria for receiving a Purple Heart has changed.

Today, a servicemember may be eligible for this honor if they are injured or killed in a terrorist attack or in certain circumstances involving friendly fire. Servicemembers who receive Purple Hearts also receive Purple Heart benefits.

So..why is the Purple Heart Purple?

Well for starters, we are not sure which is the cooler story but...

One interpretation of the color of the Purple Heart is that the color represents the blood of servicemen and women who have made sacrifices in war, but traditionally the color is thought to represent the courage of those who serve.

Seeing as the color of the Badge of Military Merit was originally purple, it is somewhat logical that the Purple Heart created to celebrate George Washington’s bicentennial, Purple would be the color. After all, he created the medal!  


How is Purple Heart Day Observed?

  • States, Counties, and Cities pause in recognition of the service and sacrifice of their local sons and daughters as do sports and entertainment entities.
  • Major League Baseball teams pay homage to their local Purple Heart recipients during special pre-game and 7th inning ceremonies.
  • Veteran and military organizations hold remembrance meetings for fallen heroes and special events to thank soldiers, veterans, and Purple Heart recipients on this day.
  • Here at Veteran Merchandise. we also donate a percentage of our sales to our servicemen and women.

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1 comment

  • Thank you for the history lesson. My fervent prayer is that God bless and protect those who serve. You have my deepest respect and admiration. Always.

    Janet Helenthal on

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