Reflecting on military service and sacrifice
National Purple Heart Day is observed each year on August 7. It serves as a time for Americans to honor and remember the men and women who were either wounded on the battlefield or paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. The Purple Heart is the most easily recognized military medal, with people who have no military affiliation being familiar with it.
Purple Hearts are the oldest military award still presented to service members.
“At the time I received my Purple Heart, I did not think much about it at the time,” said Justin Mayo, former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant. “I was injured in Afghanistan in 2010 and was awarded the Purple Heart shortly after. As time went on, I became more proud to wear it on my uniform, but I certainly never wanted one. It has a sweet story attached to it and just to be able to have that story is almost worth it.”
The original Purple Heart, known as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by George Washington in 1782. The Badge of Military Merit was awarded to three Revolutionary War soldiers by Gen. George Washington himself, then by authorized subordinate officers as appropriate. Following the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit was not proposed again officially until after World War I.
Prior to 1782, when the Purple Heart’s predecessor was first created, most military awards were only given to officers who had secured grand victories in battle. The Purple Heart was one of the first awards in military history that could be given to lower-ranking enlisted soldiers or noncommissioned officers for their outstanding service.
“This award is a little bitter sweet,” said Ramiro Quiroz Delgado, former United States Navy corpsman. “People have mixed feelings about it because essentially you are being rewarded for being injured while doing your job. In my case, I feel like I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to get injured. There is honor in the award because you literally have to earn it and sacrifice part of yourself to get it. For some the price was giving everything. For me, personally, I feel like it’s an award that should be reserved for the people who lost life or limb.”
The Purple Heart officially received its modern-day look and name in 1932 from Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The revived medal was designated primarily as a combat decoration, recognizing commendable action, as well as those wounded or killed in combat.
“The Marine Corps and my time in service made me a better person and forged life long bonds that can’t be broken,” Mayo said. “Brotherhood is what made it all worthwhile.”