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Each year in the United States, August 7th celebrates Purple Heart Day. The decoration consists of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk having a narrow edge of silver stitched with the word Merit across the face. It was created by General George Washington on August 7, 1782 in Newburgh, New York. It is considered to be the first official military combat badge of the United States Army and it was called the “Badge for Military Merit”. The official successor decoration of the Badge of Military Merit is the Purple Heart.
” 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 favor 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 war, and to be considered as a permanent one.”
The "Book of Merit" was lost, and the decoration was largely forgotten until 1927, when General Charles P. Summerall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to "revive the Badge of Military Merit." In 1931, Summerall's successor, General Douglas MacArthur, took up the cause, hoping to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of George Washington's birth. On February 22, 1932, Washington's 200th birthday, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the "Order of the Purple Heart."
It is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy, and to those soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.