Originally Published: August 7, 2006 4 a.m.
The history of the Purple Heart is as old as the United States.
The members of the Major John R. Tabia PhD., Chapter No. 608 Military Order of the Purple Heart will celebrate 224 years of the Purple Heart today.
A Purple Heart Family Dinner will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. at the China Buffet in Prescott.
Chapter Commander Alfonso Santillan said all Purple Heart recipients are welcome to the no-host event. He encouraged non-members to join the celebration, bring a copy of their DD214 and sign up.
Santillan said the Military Order of the Purple Heart is the only military organization strictly for combat veterans.
The profile of George Washington on the Purple Heart is significant.
During the Revolutionary War, Washington sought a way to promote the ordinary soldier. He recognized outstanding valor and merit in common soldiers by granting them a commission or advancement in rank. In 1782, the Continental Congress ordered him to stop this procedure because it had no money to pay the soldiers, let alone officers.
Shortly after receiving the stop order from Congress, Washington wrote his General Orders of August 7, 1789.
Washington directed that when a soldier performed any singular meritorious action he could "wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding."
Washington made the order retroactive to the start of the war and it was permanent.
He ended his order with "The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all."
Washington's General Order of Aug. 7, 1782, was lost or misfiled among the War Department Records in Washington, D.C. It turned up during a search for Washington's papers before the celebration of the bicentennial of his birth on Feb. 22, 1932. The Book of Merit never turned up.
The U.S. War Department revived the Purple Heart decoration in the shape of a rich purple heart bordered with gold, with a bust of Washington in the center and the Washington coat-of-arms at the top.
The Purple Heart goes to U.S. military personnel wounded in combat, while a prisoner of war, or posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of those who receive the decoration.