Acknowledging sacrifice during Purple Heart Recognition Day

By CourtesyAugust 1, 2023

Acknowledging sacrifice during Purple Heart Recognition Day
Purple Heart (Photo Credit: Angie Thorne) VIEW ORIGINAL


By retired Lt. Col. MARK S. LESLIE

DPTMS director

FORT JOHNSON, La. — National Purple Heart Recognition Day is Aug. 7. The Purple Heart is the oldest American military medal with a unique history.

The Purple Heart is not awarded for valor, courage, bravery or heroism. It is awarded for 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. Sgt. Henry Johnson, this installation’s namesake, and a World War I Medal of Honor recipient, suffered 21 combat injuries and was awarded his Purple Heart medal posthumously in 1996.

Sacrifice of flesh and blood as well as recognition of one’s own mortality comes with the award of this medal. Unplanned sacrifice is one of the things that distinguish this medal from the rest. Acknowledgment of this sacrifice is one of the things that separate the military profession from most others. It is something to be proud of and prepared for. On this Purple Heart Day. I will be reflecting on the actions of those that I have been privileged to serve with that have sacrificed and earned the oldest and most recognizable award in the US military award inventory — the Purple Heart.