Purple Heart Day: The history of the honor

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NORTH COUNTRY, N.Y. (WWTI) — Purple Heart Day is celebrating its 239th anniversary on August 7. The Purple Heart medal honors members of the United States armed forces who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action.

According to United Service Organizations, the inspiration for the award is drawn from the Fidelity Medallion which was created by the Continental Congress in 1780 and was awarded to three soldiers that year. The tradition continued in 1782 when George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit. The badge was given to soldiers in the form of a cloth purple heart, which evolved into what is known today as the Purple Heart medal, officially receiving its modern name in 1932.

According to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, about 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been presented to service members since the award was created in 1782. The award is the oldest military award still being presented to American service members.

Although the award has experienced several changes throughout the years, in 1942 President Roosevelt and the War Department further defined the qualifications for receiving a Purple Heart, designating it for those who were wounded or killed in action. They also expanded the eligibility of the award to all military branches of service and gave authorization to present Purple Heart medals to those who had already lost their lives.

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New York’s Hudson River Valley. It is co-located with the New Windsor Cantonment which is where you can find the “Temple of Virtue,” which was the building where officers met to review candidates for the Badge of Military Merit, the inspiration for today’s Purple Heart. Family members, friends, and recipients themselves can contact the Hall of Honor to be included.

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