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Sun, Feb. 16

Purple Heart award has rich history

The Purple Heart is a combat decoration awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have sustained injuries or who have been killed in conflict with an armed enemy.

Those who are killed or die of wounds received in action receive the Purple Heart posthumously.

Gen. George Washington created the original Badge of Military Honor in 1782. Prior to that year, he rewarded outstanding valor and merit to deserving individuals by granting a commission or an advance in rank.

For many years, the Badge of Military Honor was this nation's highest, and only, award. After the Revolution, it disappeared.

Several people in the late 1920s tried unsuccessfully to revive the medal. But it wasn't until preparations were being made for Washington's 200th birthday celebration in 1932, that Washington's General Order of 1782 resurfaced and the U.S. War Department redesigned the merit award.

The original decoration consisted of purple cloth in the shape of a heart with narrow lace or binding around the edges.

The new design keeps the purple color and the shape of the heart and is bordered with gold. A bust of Washington is in the center and the Washington coat-of-arms sits over his head. The Purple Heart award has evolved through several changes and additions over the years.

Membership in the MOPH now numbers more than 36,500 people.

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