Purple Heart Day is observed on August 7 each year and is a time for Americans to remember and honor the brave men and women who were either wounded on the battlefield, or paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Purple Heart Day is also known as National Purple Heart Day, Purple Heart Recognition Day and Purple Heart Appreciation Day.
Purple Heart Day will be observed on Friday, August 7, 2020.
The holiday was first observed in 2014, and is considered an unofficial observance meaning that businesses, government offices, etc. do not close on this day.
How Purple Heart Day is 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.
- The Purple Heart Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, recommends donating time and money to the foundation or to other organizations working with Purple Heart recipients.
- People take the time to listen to soldiers and veterans and learn more about their life stories and their military service.
- American flags are flown at homes and businesses.
Criteria For Receiving A Purple Heart
The Purple Heart has a long list of criteria for eligibility-too long to list here. But in general it may be awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who have been wounded, killed in action, or have died or may die from wounds received in any action against the United States, action with an opposing armed force, the results of any hostile “foreign force” and many other situations where men and women in uniform may find themselves under attack.
In general, the Purple Heart is awarded for injuries sustained because of enemy attack. Injuries sustained for other reasons not related to things “not caused by enemy agents” are generally not acceptable as grounds for receiving the Purple Heart, though friendly fire injuries do qualify as long as the friendly fire was intended for the enemy. The Purple Heart is now given to persons who are injured, wounded or died while a prisoner of war (POW).
The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH)
Purple Heart Recipients can join The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) which was formed in 1932. It is composed exclusively of men and women who have received the Purple Heart and is the only veterans service organization with only “combat” veterans as members. It’s estimated that more than a million Purple Hearts have been awarded and there are about 45,000 MOPH members today.
Why is the Purple Heart Purple?
One contemporary interpretation of the color of the Purple Heart is that the color represents the blood of all those who have made sacrifices in war, but traditionally the color is thought to represent the courage of those who serve. The original color of the Badge of Military Merit was purple, so it is logical that when the Purple Heart was created to celebrate George Washington’s bicentennial, the original color of the medal he created would be used to honor his memory.
History of The Purple Heart’s Long And Winding Road
The Purple Heart began as something called the Badge of Military Merit, an honor created by General George Washington in 1782. The honor was only presented to enlisted soldiers who had performed a “singularly meritorious action.” Only a handful of these were awarded, and following the American Revolution, the Badge of Military Merit didn’t become a permanent fixture among the various other awards and decorations given to those who serve.
But the spirit of the Badge of Military Merit would be honored again in 1932, when the Purple Heart award was created to honor the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday. World War One saw the first Purple Hearts awarded to soldiers, presented on the site of the final encampment of the Continental Army in Windsor, New York.
The Purple Heart took many years to evolve into what it is known as today. When General Douglas MacArthur signed General Order #3 establishing the modern Purple Heart, it was not authorized to be awarded to anyone except to those serving in the Army or the Army Air Corps. A presidential order signed in 1942 opened the Purple Heart to all branches of the military including the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Modern Purple Heart
World War Two saw the Purple Heart change from an award for meritorious service to one honoring those who were wounded or killed in combat. Criteria for receiving a Purple Heart has also changed over the years; military members may be eligible for this honor if they are wounded or killed as a result of an act of terrorism or in qualifying circumstances where friendly fire was involved. There are also Purple Heart benefits afforded to the men and women that are awarded Purple Hearts.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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