What Is Purple Heart Day?
Every August 7th in the United States, Purple Heart Day is celebrated to honor the brave men and women who were injured or gave their lives in battle to protect the freedoms of all Americans. But, to understand exactly why we celebrate Purple Heart Day, we first need to know what a Purple Heart is– and to whom these honors are awarded.
A Purple Heart is a medal given to service members in the US military who have either been injured or were killed in the line of duty. The medal is a distinction that means that the recipient bravely sacrificed themselves while in service to the US military. Purple Hearts are heart-shaped medals with gold borders containing a profile of President George Washington, and above it is the coat of arms of George Washington. They are pinned to a soldier’s uniform by a purple ribbon, a color used to signify courage and bravery. Here are 5 more important things to know about this prestigious honor:
The Purple Heart is the Oldest Military Award Today
The Purple Heart’s first name was the Fidelity Medallion, and it was created in 1780 by the Continental Congress. That year, only three medals were awarded. In 1782, President George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart’s next predecessor, and it was awarded to soldiers who displayed “not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way.” President Washington designed the award from purple cloth, and the Badge of Military Merit became what is known today as the Purple Heart.
Service Members Can Receive Multiple Purple Hearts
Throughout their career, members of the military service can receive multiple Purple Heart medals. Curry T. Hayes, who served in the Army in Vietnam, currently holds the record with ten Purple Hearts. Hayes received his first Purple Heart in Vietnam where he was shot, and after returning to the front, he was injured nine different times in the span of one assault. He passed away in 2017 from cancer.
John F. Kennedy is the Only President With a Purple Heart
President John F. Kennedy served in the Navy during World War II. When a Japanese destroyer hit his patrol torpedo boat, his back was badly injured. Despite the injury, he saved the life of another soldier, a man who had been burnt badly, by swimming 3 miles to shore and holding the man’s straps in his teeth as he swam.
Army Lieutenant Anne G. Fox Was the First Woman to Receive a Purple Heart
In 1942, Lieutenant Anne G. Fox received the Purple Heart for her time serving as chief nurse in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor. She remained calm and successfully directed all hospital staff at Hickam Field as wounded soldiers came in from the harbor.
1.8 Million People Have Received Purple Hearts
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honorees estimates that 1.8 million brave men and women have received a Purple Heart medal. While an official list of each honoree doesn’t yet exist, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honorees is working on a database to list all recipients for the family of brave military members to reference.