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Every Veteran Has A Story - Purple Heart


When we see that a member of the American Military has either been killed in action or wounded in battle the Purple Heart will normally come to mind.  This is probably the most recognized military medal of all but it was not always available to all our military.  The original Purple Heart created by General George Washington, then the Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army was then called “The Badge of Merit”.  This badge by his order on August 7th, 1782 was at first only awarded to Revolutionary War soldiers by General Washington himself but later subordinate officers were authorized to issue it.  Of course, these early Badges of Merit looked different that the Purple Heart we all know.  They took the form of a heart made of purple cloth.
This award was never abolished but did not show up again until after World War I.  Army Chief of Staff General Charles Pelot Summerall directed on October 10th, 1927 that a draft bill be sent to Congress to revive the Merit Badge.  For some reason the bill went nowhere but a few years later on January 7th, 1931, General Douglas MacArthur revived the bill by reopening work on a new design.  Elizabeth Will who was an Army heraldic specialist in the office of the Quartermaster general created a design sketch for the present medal which became known as the Purple Heart.
With the onset of World War I the US Army approved on September 6th, 1917, a short-lived decoration called the Army Wound Ribbon.  It was simple in design; a red background (probably signifying blood spilled) with a white stripe in the middle and was to recognize soldiers who had received combat wounds during World War I.  For whatever reason it was only issued a little over a month and discontinued on October 12th, 1917.
The following year the Wound Ribbon was replaced with the Wound Chevron.  This was a gold metallic-thread chevron on an olive drab backing that was displayed on the lower right cuff of a US military uniform.  It signified wounds received in combat or hospitalization following a gassing.  At first it was only authorized for the Army but shortly afterwards Navy and Marine Corps personnel could also receive it.
In a War Department circular dated February 22nd, 1932, the criteria was announced that authorized the Purple Heart to soldiers upon their request who had been awarded the Army Wound Ribbon or were authorized to wear Wound Chevron before April 5th, 1917, the day before the United States entered World War I.  General MacArthur himself was awarded the first Purple Heart.  Many may not know that the during the early part of WW II the Purple Heart was awarded both for wounds received in action and for meritorious performance of duty.  With the establishment of the Legion of Merit the awarding of the Purple Heart for meritorious service was discontinued.  Executive Order 9277, December 3, 1942 authorized the Purple Heart only for wounds received in combat.
Unlike most military decorations an individual is not recommended for the Purple Heart but is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria.  It is an award the recipient and family can be proud of but not one they ever wanted.

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