Grateful American® Foundation

What is the origin of the Purple Heart award?

August 7th

badge_meritAugust 7, 1782 — Although Continental Congress forbid General George Washington from granting commissions and promotions in rank to recognize merit, Washington wanted to honor merit, particularly among the enlisted soldiers.

So today he established the official Badge of Military Merit.

Washington is said to have felt that this badge of military merit granted soldiers a special distinction, historians tell us. In fact, only three Purple Hearts were given during the Revolutionary War: Sergeant Elijah Churchill, 2nd Continental Dragoons; Sergeant William Brown, 5th and Sergeant Daniel Bissel, 2nd Connecticut Continental Line Infantry.

General John J. Pershing suggested a need for an award for merit in 1918, but it was not until 1932 that the Purple Heart was created in recognition of Washington’s ideals and for the bicentennial of his birth. During WWI, that the badge was reestablished, and given to 137 veterans.

Today the Purple Heart is given to any soldier in all branches of the military who has been injured or killed while serving their country.

Words of Wisdom

... The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit directs whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding.

— George Washington, on the granting of the Badge of Military Merit, August 7, 1782. It award later became known as the Purple Heart.

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