Most people have never heard of Purple Heart Day, which takes place annually on August 7th to commemorate the medals origins and the more than 1.7 million combat-wounded Purple Heart recipients.
In 1782, George Washington, then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, created the Badge of Military Merit, today known as the Purple Heart medal. It represented Washington’s respect and acknowledgement of veterans’ combat valor. Today, more than 232 years later, the medal is the oldest U.S. military decoration still in use, and the inventory of veterans’ stories blends both heroic and tragic distinctions.
Jim Blaylock, of Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, a Vietnam veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient says, “The Purple Heart medal represents courage, sacrifice, commitment and ‘heart.’ The Purple Heart Foundation celebrates the heart of every veteran by providing emotional, physical, educational and financial support for veterans and their families.”
These three veterans share what the Purple Heart means to them.
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Afghanistan, on the needs of women warriors:
“As the population of female Purple Heart recipients grows, we have an opportunity to build support networks and increase awareness of the unique needs and challenges of women in the service of our country … With the recent announcement of opening combat positions to all genders, we can expect that women will take on more roles that will put them in harm’s way … The Purple Heart medal is a testament to their heroism, sacrifice and resilience.”
Donald Summers, Korean War, on surviving war:
“I am proud to have had a part in the forgotten Korean War, and I am proud of the officers and men of the 1st Cavalry Division. But is with deepest humility that I share this part of my life, for I am a survivor. Every survivor leaves a part of himself with the real heroes of any war.”
Murray Simon, WWII, on the award and reward:
“I believe that the guidelines for awards changed with each succeeding war, such as the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts … Nevertheless, with or without awards, we Dogface Soldiers did what had to be done on the ground to help make the world a better place for future generations. Winning the war and living to tell the story was an awesome award.”
On Aug. 7, Purple Heart Day, instead of waving a flag, take some time to listen to and share a veteran’s story of honor and courage. Through their stories we can truly celebrate this holiday and honor the sacrifice of all our veterans.
To learn more, visit www.purpleheartfoundation.org.