By Retired (Lt. Col.) MARK LESLIE
FORT POLK, La. — Today is National Purple Heart Recognition Day. The Purple Heart is the oldest American military medal, and it is a different medal than most — it’s the medal no one wants to earn.
The Purple Heart is not awarded for bravery or heroism; it is awarded for sacrifice. It is recognized by most military veterans as the national symbol of sacrifice. Sadly, many Americans do not know the significance or meaning of the medal.
The Purple Heart medal is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed in combat. Purple Heart Day is an observance that commemorates the creation of the Purple Heart Medal in 1782 by Gen. George Washington. Originally known as the Badge of Military Merit, it was initially awarded to three Revolutionary War Soldiers in 1783.
The Revolutionary War ended and the Purple Heart faded into obscurity until being later revived in 1932 on the bicentennial anniversary of Washington's birth. Purple Heart Medals were retroactively awarded to those wounded or killed while serving in the armed forces during World War I due to enemy action on or after April 5, 1917. It is estimated that about 1.9 million Purple Hearts have been awarded since that time. It is also the most intricate and expensive medal in the inventory.
This day is marked to recognize those that have made a sacrifice that all Soldiers must be prepared to make but never want to. On this day, I reflect on the heroic actions of Cpl. Travis Brown, who saved my life and suffered more severe wounds than mine; many other Soldiers to whom I have presented this award; and the Families of those no longer with us.