The Purple Heart military award (U.S. Army)

The Purple Heart


The Purple Heart is awarded to military members who are injured and killed in combat, through an act of terrorism or by friendly fire.

Recipients of the award are entitled to a parade of military benefits they may not otherwise be able to access, including some healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the post-9/11 GI Bill, regardless of time in service. Starting in 2020 recipients will also be able to shop at military commissaries in the U.S.

Related: Benefits for Purple Heart recipients.

History of the Purple Heart

The Purple Heart is also known as the nation's oldest military award. Although it has changed in title and use over the years, its roots can be traced back to the Badge of Military Merit ordered by then General George Washington on August 7, 1782. That's why the gold medal on a purple ribbon bears the profile of Washington.

An estimated 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded to U.S. troops.

Today Purple Heart recipients are celebrated annually on August 7, which has been designated as Purple Heart Day.

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