General George Washington began honoring soldiers with a Badge of Military Merit on Aug. 7, 1782. The badge was "the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding." After the Revolutionary War, the Badge was no longer used. In 1932, in honor of the bicentennial of Washington's birth, the Purple Heart was created.
At first, the Purple Heart was for meritorious service, which might include being wounded. Now it "is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917 has been wounded, killed, or has died after being wounded."
National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, History page. See also Military Order of the Purple Heart, History of the Medal (longer article).
To research veterans' benefits law, see our guide.
To track some of the policy issues related to veterans, see the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs (the chairman is Senator Patty Murray, from Washington State). You can find information about proposed legislation (e.g., S. 3340, the Mental Health Access Act of 2012, introduced in June) and get information about hearings and more.
A few more links:
- United States Department of Veterans Affairs
- Irag and Afghanistan Veterans of America
- Disabled American Veterans
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Veterans History Project (Library of Congress)
Looking for something to do on a Friday or Saturday downtown? Stop by the Seattle Veterans Museum (near Benaroya Hall).
Graphic: Purple Heart stamp from USPS.com.