“Courage isn’t a brilliant dash
A daring deed in a moment’s flash;
It isn’t an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring.
But it’s something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.”
-Edgar A. Guest.
Back on this date in 1782, General George Washington, the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, issued a general order establishing the “Badge of Distinction” and “Badge of Merit.”
The Badge of Distinction and the Badge of Merit were to benefit those of the continental army who suffered appalling privations for over six years. Congress had taken away the authority of general officers to recognize their soldiers’ courage and leadership by awarding commissions in the field. They also corruptly and negligently withheld pay, rations and supplies. Faithful service and outstanding acts of bravery went unrecognized and unrewarded. George Washington was determined to end that.
The general’s order “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 a due reward….The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus opened to all.”
Over the course of a hundred years or so, this badge of honor took on a new design and a new name. Today, we call it the Purple Heart.
Our nation awards the Purple Heart in the name of the President to those who have been wounded (including those suffering from mild Traumatic Brain Injury) or killed while serving with the U.S. Military. As of November 2009, National Geographic estimated the number of purple hearts given as below.
World War I: 320,518
World War II: 1,076,245
Korean War: 118,650
Vietnam War: 351,794
Persian Gulf War: 607
Afghanistan War: 7,027 (as of 5 June 2010)
Iraq War: 35,321 (as of 5 June 2010)
For more information about the Purple Heart please visit The Military Order of the Purple Heart’s website Purpleheart.org.