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Learn the history of National Purple Heart Day, which honors the nation’s oldest military award

August 07, 2017

August 7 marks National Purple Heart Day, which commemorates the Purple Heart Medal’s origins and the country’s more than 1.7 million combat-wounded Purple Heart recipients.

The Purple Heart is the nation’s oldest military award.

“The Department of Defense honors all Purple Heart recipients for their service and sacrifice,” it said.

The Purple Heart was introduced by General George Washington in 1782. It was then known as the Badge of Military Merit, and only three soldiers are known to have been awarded the honor badge then.

“[…] Extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward,” Washington wrote.

The Purple Heart was not awarded again until 1927.

The War Department, now known as the U.S. Department of Defense, announced the establishment of the Purple Heart, as the award is currently known, in 1932.

The U.S. Army medal regulations include:

  • Showing a relief profile of George Washington;
  • Having Washington’s family coat of arms above the enameled heart; and,
  • Having “For Military Merit” inscribed on the reverse side.

The Purple Heart was exclusively an Army award until December 1942, when then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt recommended that personnel from all military branches could receive the award.

In 1962, then-President John F. Kennedy extended the recipient pool to civilian nationals of the U.S. and authorized posthumous awarding of the medal.

“Purple Heart Day” was a popular hash tag on Twitter to mark the occasion.

Wounded veteran John Kriesel posted a photo of when he was awarded the Purple Heart by then-President George W. Bush, after he was wounded during action in 2006 in Iraq.


“It is the medal I never wanted to earn, but I’m proud to have it,” Kriesel also tweeted.

Supreme Court Justice Don Willett tweeted to “salute all our brave Purple Heart recipients.”


“Heroes all,” he added.

One Twitter user tweeted: “We’re PROUD of you all. God bless the USA.”