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HIGHER CULTURE: Why Americans Should Commemorate 'Purple Heart Day'

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

I’ll admit I’ve never heard of Purple Heart Day before. But the Library of Congress wrote about it on social media on Sunday. It shared that among then-General George Washington’s papers was the order in 1782 creating what we now call the Purple Heart. He called it a “Badge of Military Merit.”

Here’s part of what Washington’s order said, 240 years ago:

Honorary Badges of distinction are to be conferred on the veteran Non commissioned officers and soldiers of the army who have served more than three years with bravery, fidelity and good conduct; for this purpose a narrow piece of white cloath of an angular form is to be fixed to the left arm on the uniform Coat. Non commissioned officers and soldiers who have served with equal reputation more than six years are to be distinguished by two pieces of cloth set in parellel to each other in a simular form; should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them they shall be severely punished. On the other hand it is expected those gallant men who are thus designated will on all occasions be treated with particular confidence and consideration.

The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding.18 Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward. …

The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all. This order is also to have retrospect to the earliest stages of the war, and to be considered as a permanent one.

A footnote gives more of the decoration’s modern history:

18. This decoration, now known as “The Purple Heart,” was revived by the President of the United States, Feb. 22, 1933, and thrown open to all who served in the Army of the United States. As established by Washington, “The Badge of Military Merit” was unique, in that it was obtainable only by privates and noncommissioned officers.

Every year on August 7, the National Purple Heart Honor Mission holds a national tribute ceremony to honor receipients of the decoration. It takes place at historic Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, NY (near West Point), according to the organization’s website.

The event offers Purple Heart recipients the chance to gather together to share personal narratives about the true cost of freedom and what it takes to protect our great nation.

The 2022 ceremony hasn’t been posted to the site yet, but you can visit the above link to watch the full 2021 ceremony.

Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton honored servicemembers on Sunday.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) gave an important reminder:

Governor Kristi Noem (R-SD) marked the day:

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who’s running for governor of the Empire state, shared this heartfelt message on Sunday about the holiday.

In a way, you could think of Purple Heart Day as a hydrid of Memorial Day and Veterans Day, since it isn’t just meant to honor the fallen or all who currently serve our nation. A new video released by Arlington National Cemetery hammers that point home. Here’s its explanation of a simple way for Americans to tell whether a servicemember received the honor:

Whenever you see “Purple Heart” – or simply “PH” – inscribed on a headstone or niche cover, know that service member was wounded or died in service to our nation.

God bless all of our veterans, but especially those who we honor today for their courage in serving us like they did. Join me in a prayer for their families, who provided support for these heroes.

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