About the Purple Heart

George Washington

       The PURPLE HEART is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration. 

 

            The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart," was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, it is the only veterans service organization comprised strictly of "combat" veterans.

          Funds for welfare, rehabilitation and/or service work carried on by the organization are derived through the collection of used household items, the operation of Thrift Stores, through the donation of automobiles and, at the community level, from the annual distribution of its official flower, the Purple Heart Viola. Violas are assembled by disabled and needy veterans, many of whom receive little or no compensation from other sources. Thus your contribution to programs of the Military Order of the Purple Heart serve a two-fold purpose-they help the veterans who participate in these endeavors and enable the organization to do many things on behalf of hospitalized and needy veterans and their families. 

 

          Wives, mothers, daughters, step-daughters and adopted daughters of Purple Heart recipients are eligible to belong to the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, which also does important work nationally and locally in Veterans' Hospitals.

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 History of the Medal

The Purple Heart is an American decoration-the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first American award made available to the common soldier. It was initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by one of the world's most famed and best-loved heroes-General George Washington. General Washington is often pictured as a cold, stern soldier, a proud aristocrat. Yet we know he showed sympathy and concern for his troops, and was not too proud to pray humbly on his knees for his beloved country and for the men who served it, and him, so bravely and loyally. His keen appreciation of the importance of the common soldier in any campaign impelled him to recognize outstanding valor and merit by granting a commission or an advance in rank to deserving individuals. In the summer of 1782 he was ordered by the Continental Congress to cease doing so-there were no funds to pay the soldiers, much less the officers! 

Deprived of his usual means of reward, he must have searched for a substitute. Shortly after receiving the "stop" order from Congress, he wrote his memorable General Orders of August 7, 1782, which read in part as follows: 

"The General, ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers as well as 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 his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with due reward. The name and regiment of the persons so certified are to be enrolled in a Book of Merit which shall be kept in the orderly room." The order further states: "Men who have merited this distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The order to be retroactive to the earliest stages of the war, and to be a permanent one." Washington ended his order with: "The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all." 

An organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart," was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, it is the only veterans service organization comprised strictly of "combat" veterans. 

 

Funds for welfare, rehabilitation and/or service work carried on by the organization are derived through the collection of used household items, the operation of Thrift Stores, through the donation of automobiles and, at the community level, from the annual distribution of its official flower, the Purple Heart Viola. Violas are assembled by disabled and needy veterans, many of whom receive little or no compensation from other sources. Thus your contribution to programs of the Military Order of the Purple Heart serve a two-fold purpose-they help the veterans who participate in these endeavors and enable the organization to do many things on behalf of hospitalized and needy veterans and their families. 

 

Wives, mothers, daughters, step-daughters and adopted daughters of Purple Heart recipients are eligible to belong to the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, which also does important work nationally and locally in Veterans' Hospitals.