War creates wounds of many types. For some they are unseen. For some, their wounds are an ever-present physical reminder of their life in combat. A reminder that there was a time when the facade of adolescent invulnerability was shattered and mortality realized. This day we recognize and remember those wounded while in selfless service to not only our country but to their brothers in arms as well.
The Purple Heart took the place of the Badge of Military Merit, established by George Washington in 1782. The Purple Heart is to be awarded to those serving on or after April 5th, 1917 for “being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.”
Since it’s inception, almost 2 million men have received this award. During World War I, with the advent of modern weapons of war like machine guns, tanks, and modern artillery, there were 320,518 Purple Hearts awarded.
During World War II, when we fought a war on two fronts, pushing back the Nazis and reclaiming islands from Japan, 1,076,245 warriors were awarded the Purple Heart.
Despite our hope that World War II would be the war to end all wars, shortly thereafter the Korean War kicked off, where we faced the scourge of Communism for the first time, 118,650 Americans received the award.
Not too long after that we found ourselves combatting Communism in the jungles of Vietnam, where 351,794 Americans received the Purple Heart.
Thankfully, due to improvements in technology and tactics, the last three wars have not been nearly as costly in terms of human life, with the first Persian Gulf War seeing only 607 wounded/K.I.A, Operation Enduring Freedom only saw 7,027 (as of June 5, 2010) Purple Hearts awarded. The streets and cities of Iraq proved the most costly, with 35,321 (as of June 5, 2010)
These men and women have a story to tell, if they offer you a chance to hear it, listen to them, for what we have here, it is not taken for granted by those who’ve been wounded/killed in our name.
August 7th, National Purple Heart Day.