Purple Heart Day is a U.S. military holiday that takes place every year on August 7th. The holiday was first created in 1782 by General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
The Purple Heart, originally called the Badge of Military Merit, was one of the first military awards that could be awarded to regular, enlisted soldiers. It is presented to military personnel who have been wounded or killed by the enemy during a war.
Today, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award presented to soldiers. The first military decoration ever awarded was the Fidelity Medallion, also known as the “André Capture Medal”. It was given to three soldiers who captured British Major John André. The Major served in the British Army and was head of its Secret Service during the American Revolutionary War. Major John André helped Benedict Arnold, an American military officer, defect to the British.
Some examples of the type of service that can result in the awarding of a Purple Heart include:
- taking action against an enemy of the United States;
- taking action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged;
- Serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party;
- as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces; or
- as a result of an act of any hostile foreign force; or
- as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United states, or
- as a result of a military operation while serving outside the territory of the United States as a peacekeeping force.
Types of injuries that can result in a Purple Heart include:
- bullet, shrapnel, or other projectile created by enemy action;
- injury caused by enemy placed land mine, naval mine, or trap;
- injury caused by enemy released chemical, biological, or nuclear agent;
- injury caused by vehicle or aircraft accident resulting from enemy fire;
- concussion injuries caused as a result of enemy generated explosions.
The Purple Heart is heart-shaped and has a gold boarder. Inside the boarder is a profile of George Washington. Above the heart is a shield.
Service members are awarded the Purple Heart based on recommendations from their chain of command. Over 1.8 million soldiers have received a Purple Heart since it was first created.
Famous Purple Heart recipients include Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, a revered U.S. Marine (WWI, WWII, and Korea); actors James Arness, Charles Bronson, James Garner and Rod Serling; writers Kurt Vonnegut and Oliver Sone; and athletes Warren Spahn, Pat Tillman and Rocky Bleier.