When is Purple Heart Day? On August 7th, American citizens can take the time to appreciate the millions of people who served their country. Many men and women sacrificed their mental health and physical well-being to bravely fight for the continual freedom of America. These people received the Purple Heart, given by the President of the United States as recognition for soldiers that were wounded or killed whilst serving. Banyan’s veteran’s addiction treatment centers explore the history of this prestigious honor, its famous recipients, and how you can observe this day as a way to show gratitude and respect to those that have earned it.
What Is the Purple Heart?
The Purple Heart, first introduced as the Badge of Military Merit by George Washington in 1782, is an extreme honor and is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces. The medal is the oldest military award still presented to members who have risked their lives to protect others. In its original form, the medal was designed with a piece of silk held together with a thin edge of silver. At the time of its conception, Washington only gave out three of these badges himself, while authorized personnel would issue the awards.
The use of the Badge of Merit faded but was revived in 1932 as the Purple Heart we are familiar with today. The first soldier to be awarded this was General Douglas MacArthur, to honor his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It was MacArthur that wished to revamp the award just in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday. At this time, the award was intended to primarily honor those who were wounded or killed in combat. Since then, over 1.8 million of these awards have been given throughout the years.
More interesting facts about the Purple Heart medal include:
- It is believed that purple was chosen as the color of this honor because it is commonly representative of bravery and courage.
- John F. Kennedy was the only President with a Purple Heart. While serving in the Navy during WWII, his back was severely injured when a Japanese destroyer crashed into a patrol torpedo boat that he was in. Despite this injury, Kennedy refused to leave his brothers behind. By clenching another soldier’s life jacket strap between his teeth, he swam nearly three miles until they reached the safety of an island’s shore.
- In 1942, Amy G. Fox was the first woman to receive the Purple Heart. This was for her heroic contributions throughout the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, where she was stationed as a Chief Nurse at Hickam Field, Hawaii. By remaining calm, she effectively managed hospital staff to continue tending to wounded soldiers as destruction and chaos persisted around them.
- Another famous female recipient was Cordelia “Betty” Cook. While serving as a combat nurse during World War II, she suffered shrapnel wounds in the midst of working at a field hospital. Despite these wounds, she persisted in treating the soldiers that continued to flock to her unit for aid.
- The Purple Heart was one of the first military medals given to all ranks.
- During the Revolutionary War, William Brown and Elijah Churchill were the first soldiers to receive the Badge of Military Merit.
- At the start of the award, members of the family were not eligible to receive the medal for the soldier killed in combat until President Roosevelt, and the War Department redefined qualifications in 1942.
- Other famous purple heart recipients include actors Rod Serling and James Garner, athlete Pat Tillman, writers Oliver Stone and Kurt Vonnegut, and even animals, including Sgt. Stubby the war dog.
Curry T. Haynes served in the Army during the Vietnam War and received his first Purple Heart after he was shot in the arm during an ambush in the jungle. He was eventually transported to receive reparative surgery in Japan, after which he courageously returned to the front to continue serving. In the end, this soldier received nine Purple Hearts – one for each of his wounds – and passed away in 2017 due to cancer.
It is hard for the average civilian to imagine the trauma that is associated with such experiences. It is something many of us thankfully do not need to go through, and that is because of the efforts of millions of brave individuals. The Badge of Military Merit, now known as the Purple Heart, recognizes and appreciates the hardships, sacrifices, and success stories of soldiers that continue to put their lives on the line for our freedom and liberty.
How to Celebrate National Purple Heart Day
What does Purple Heart Day mean? It means that as American citizens, we can take the time to appreciate those who fought and lost their lives for our country. Citizens can reflect by researching or reading true happenings from past wars. In addition, you can go to a military museum or a national park, or you can research non-profit organizations and make a donation, or volunteer at a local organization.
There are many ways to recognize and honor those who have fought for America. Of course, social media is always an excellent option to spread awareness and show appreciation for those wounded or fallen soldiers. Plus, speak to a loved one or neighbor, and be sure to thank veterans for their service!
Banyan Treatment Centers’ Medical Staff Says Thank You to Those Who Served
At the Banyan Treatment Centers Military & Veterans in Recovery program, our medical staff establishes a plan that best fits the patients. If you or a loved one is an active-duty member or veteran and is struggling with a co-occurring disorder, we have you covered. We offer medical detox, so patients are able to safely complete the withdrawal process. We prioritize our soldiers by providing our family services, along with other unique programs. We take pride in our ability to provide solace to Americans that truly deserve it most and seek to curb the many instances of drug and alcohol abuse that affect countless veterans.