I just learned that today it Purple Heart Day, thanks to John Usmc Recon on facebook. Since I am committed to making sure our grand-children, and children everywhere know of the best deeds of our countrymen, under the harshest of circumstances, in order that they might understand what true courage is I am writing this quick blog. It isn't losing weight you have gained, that is courage, although that is admirable. It isn't even those single acts of heroism that occur spontaneously, for instance, when someone runs into a burning building to save someone. Of course that requires courage, and definitely is admirable, and someone owes their life to that individual. The Purple Heart kind of courage is different in that it is the kind where an individual deliberately places themselves in the position of defending our country, our constitution (what we believe in as a nation,) and each one of our countrymen "from all enemies, foreign and domestic." They perform this sacred duty on a daily basis, as a profession, in places where the odds are great they will sustain injury or death in doing so.
“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. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward. Before this favour can be conferred on any man, the particular fact, or facts, on which it is to be grounded must be set forth to the Commander in chief accompanied with certificates from the Commanding officers of the regiment and brigade to which the Candidate for reward belonged, or other incontestable proofs, and upon granting it, the name and regiment of the person with the action so certified are to be enrolled in the book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office. Men who have merited this last distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do.
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.”
Apparently those early patriots were very particular in who was awarded this decoration. The original honor badge was only to be received by Sergeant Daniel Bissell of the 2d Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line; Sergeant William Brown of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line, and Sergeant Elijah Churchill of the 2d Continental Dragoons, also a Connecticut regiment. The medal was not awarded again.
Then in October 1927, after Word War I, General Charles Summerall proposed that a bill be submitted to Congress to again award the “Badge of Military Merit.” The Army’s Office of The Adjutant General was instructed in January of 1928 to file the information concerning medal. A rough drawing was included in the proposal package. It was circular, concave in the center, and had a raised heart. “For Military Merit," was engraved on the back.
General Douglas MacArthur is my husband's personal hero, and he was General Summerall’s successor as Army Chief of Staff He's my kind of general... if you have never listened to his farewe.ll address, given at West Point, there are few things more worth a listen. This is Gregory Peck as General MacArthur at West Point in 1962.
On February 22, 1932 -- the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth the Department of Defense, which was at the time known as the War Department, announced the establishment of the Purple Heart award in General Order No. 3:
By Order of the Secretary War
Douglas MacArthur General Chief of Staff
Army regulations’ eligibility criteria for the award included:
Those in possession of a Meritorious Service Citation Certificate issued by the Commander-in Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. (The Certificates had to be exchanged for the Purple Heart.)
Those authorized by Army regulations to wear wound chevrons. (These men also had to apply for the new award.)
The newly reintroduced Purple Heart was not intended primarily as an award for those wounded in action -- the “wound chevron” worn by a soldier on his sleeve already fulfilled that purpose. Establishing the Meritorious Service Citation as a qualification for receiving the Purple Heart was very much in keeping with General Washington’s original intent for the award.
However, authorizing the award in exchange for “wound chevrons” established the now familiar association of the award with injuries sustained in battle. This was reinforced by Army regulations, which stated that the
award required a "singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity service" and that "a wound which necessitates treatment by a medical officer and which is received in action with an enemy, may, in the judgment of the commander authorized to make the award, be construed as resulting from a singularly meritorious act of essential service."
Until Executive Order 9277 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in December 1942 authorized award of the Purple Heart to personnel from all of the military services (retroactive to December 7, 1941), the medal was exclusively an Army award. The Executive Order also stated that the Purple Heart was to be awarded to persons who “are wounded in action against an enemy of the United States, or as a result of an act of such enemy, provided such would necessitate treatment by a medical officer"
President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11016 in April 1962 that further extended eligibility to "any civilian national of the United States, who while serving under competent authority in any capacity with an armed force…, has been, or may hereafter be, wounded" and authorized posthumous award of the medal.
Executive Order 12464 signed by President Ronald Reagan in February 1984, authorized award of the Purple Heart as a result of terrorist attacks or while serving as part of a peacekeeping force subsequent to March 28, 1973. The 1998 National Defense Authorization Act removed civilians from the list of personnel eligible for the medal.
The Purple Heart is ranked immediately behind the bronze star and ahead of the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in order of precedence.
Possession of the Purple Heart medal does not by itself qualify veterans for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. However, since November 1999, Purple Heart recipients have been placed in VA’s enrollment priority group 3, unless eligible for the higher priority groups (1 or 2) based on service-connected disabilities. Recipients are also exempt from co-payments for VA hospital care and medical outpatient care, but not from pharmacy co-payments for medications prescribed for non-service connected conditions"
Whenever you learn you are in the presence of a Purple Heart recipient, understand you are in the company of the truly courageous hero.