CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Purple Heart Day is celebrated on August 7th, and it commemorates the creation of the oldest American military decoration for military merit. 

The Purple Heart honors all of the men and women who are of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, according to the National Day Calander.

When the American Revolutionary War was taking place, the Badge for Military Merit decorated six known soldiers. General George Washington created the Badge of Merit back in 1782, and he intended the honor to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action.”

The badge symbolizes the courage and devotion of an American Patriot.

The design of the badge included a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk that was bound with a thin edge of silver. Across the face of the badge, Merit was embroidered in silver. No one knows who originally designed the award, however.

The Purple Heart persisted as a Revolutionary War footnote until Washington’s 200th birthday. Because of the efforts of General Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. War Department created the Order of the Purple Heart. The medal now has a bust of George Washington on it and his coat of arms.

National Geographic estimated that nearly 1.9 million service members have earned Purple Hearts since it was created. It is the oldest U.S. military honor that is still awarded to service members currently. Until 1944, the Purple Heart recognized service members’ commendable actions as well, but the requirements limited the award to only those wounded or killed in combat.

Americans have celebrated Purple Heart Day on both Washington’s birthday and Valentine’s Day since 1932. Some states and cities celebrate in their own way at different times throughout the year, but each declaration encourages citizens to support wounded veterans with the purchase of a purple viola.

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