purple heart day

Purple Heart Day: Remembering Courage and Honor

August 7th is National Purple Heart Day, a solemn commemoration for Americans. On this occasion, we honor the brave service personnel who suffered injuries or paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending the nation. These gallant soldiers have received the prestigious Purple Heart, a military decoration conferred by the President.  

This day allows us to remember and support those who have served the country. These medals tell a story of bravery, resilience, and sacrifice. Moreover, it reminds us of the price of freedom and why we should thank those who have fought for it.

Featured in: August - Awareness Months, Days, and Observances

Purple Heart Day History and Background

purple badge
Photo by Jonathunder on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

This event began during the Revolutionary War. On August 7, 1782, General George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit. It was the United States’ first military honor for acts of singular merit. However, the badge faded to obscurity after the war finished.

In 1932, the US celebrated the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth, reviving the Badge. General Douglas MacArthur reimagined it as the Purple Heart award, given to United States Armed Forces members killed or wounded in battle.

Fittingly, General MacArthur was the first service member awarded the modern Purple Heart medal for his efforts in the Pacific theater during World War II. After the Second World War, over one million brave service members received Purple Hearts as a token of their commitment and sacrifice.

The Cause and Its Challenges

Purple Heart Day sheds light on the challenges these brave souls face, both during service and after returning home. Behind each award lies a deeply personal story of survival and resilience, often intertwined with daunting hurdles.

Many recipients suffer from severe and life-altering physical injuries, many of them sustained in combat. Moreover, their mental health suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Many veterans continue to fight a silent war after their military service has ended1.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans fortunately have a slightly lower unemployment rate than the national average.

Before, they also experienced barriers to quality healthcare: long waiting periods and subpar care plague Veterans Health Administration (VA) facilities. Today, a systematic review of 37 studies says that VA healthcare is either as good as or better than non-VA care when it comes to clinical quality and safety2.

This occasion is a reminder for people and policymakers to continuously support the veterans, from comprehensive mental health services to strong support systems.

Benefits of the Purple Heart

camouflage nutshell helmet
Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

The Purple Heart Award features a heart-shaped medal made of gold on a purple cloth. It is attached to a purple ribbon with white edges, with George Washington's profile appearing in the center of the heart. Above the heart, a gold shield holds Washington’s family coat of arms, flanked by green leaves.

Recipients of this award enjoy certain privileges such as priority access to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, preference in federal job hiring, and specific education benefits.

In several states, Purple Heart Award recipients also receive benefits like preference for certain state jobs, tuition waivers for state colleges and universities, exemptions from local property taxes, and eligibility for special license plates.

Efforts and Initiatives

The recipients and their families enjoy support from local and global organizations and government bodies such as the Purple Heart Foundation. Each year, they host various fundraising events, providing financial aid to veterans and building a sense of togetherness.

Meanwhile, the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) awards scholarships and addresses post-traumatic stress. They've also devised an ingenious way to keep the public's attention on recipients through the Purple Heart Trail program, which dedicates roads, highways, and bridges to these veterans. 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shares stories of veterans with respect and appreciation. Moreover, they help the public understand their sacrifices while protecting the country.

Finally, besides the government, sports and entertainment entities take a moment of silence to honor veterans. Likewise, veteran and military organizations get together to remember their fallen comrades. 

How to Get Involved and Support Purple Heart Day

National WWII Museum
Photo by Jessica Tan on Unsplash

Participating in local events for Purple Heart Day is an excellent place to start. These are grand tributes to the heroes who've shown extraordinary courage. Attend these events to offer support, learn from their example, and spread the word.

You can also check out the displays and collections at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor or the National WWII Museum.

Do you want to take a more proactive role? Volunteer with military and veteran organizations focused on supporting the recipients. Whether event planning, managing administrative tasks, or contributing professional skills, you can make a difference. Volunteering also pushes you to interact with the veteran recipients. Listen to their stories and understand their sacrifice. 

Next, donations - big or small - can make a difference in the lives of the awarded veterans and their families. You can directly donate to various organizations supporting their cause. On the other hand, you can also organize charity events like fun runs, bake sales, and book fairs. 

Finally, you can wear a Purple Heart pin or display a sticker on your car or belongings. It's a simple yet effective way to spark conversations and keep the cause alive in people's minds. 

Conclusion

Purple Heart Day is a profound tribute to the brave men and women who risked their lives to protect our liberty. This honor reminds us constantly of the physical and emotional scars many bear, underlining the human toll of war.

During Purple Heart Day, remember that we all have a part to play. This day is a chance to appreciate our veterans and rally others to provide active support. Stand with the millions of recipients by thanking them for their service, donating, or volunteering. Each act of kindness and respect can create lasting change. 

Purple Heart Day FAQs

1. What is Purple Heart Day?

This holiday, observed on August 7th every year, honors and recognizes the sacrifices made by American military personnel wounded or killed in combat. It is also called Purple Heart Appreciation Day or Purple Heart Recognition Day

2. How did Purple Heart Day originate?

It was established in 2014 to commemorate the creation of the Purple Heart medal, which was first awarded on August 7, 1782, by George Washington.

3. Who are eligible to receive Purple Hearts?

Military personnel who have been wounded or killed in action while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to receive the Purple Heart medal.

4. How can I celebrate Purple Heart Day?

You can commemorate it by participating in ceremonies, parades, and community gatherings, to honor and show appreciation for Purple Heart recipients. You can also volunteer for organizations that assist wounded veterans, donate to charities, or simply take a moment to thank a veteran for their service.

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1

Hoglund, M. W., & Schwartz, R. (2014). Mental health in deployed and nondeployed veteran men and women in comparison with their civilian counterparts. Military Medicine, 179(1), 19–25.

2

Apaydin, E., Paige, N. M., Begashaw, M., Larkin, J., Miake-Lye, I. M., & Shekelle, P. G. (2023). Veterans Health Administration (VA) vs. Non-VA Healthcare Quality: A Systematic Review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 38(9), 2179–2188.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by iStrfry , Marcus on Unsplash
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