Recognizing Merit

Running a business is quite a challenge these days.  As the boss of many people from all different backgrounds, experiences and situations, I never ‘really’ know what each day will bring us. Like many of you, my team and I have our ups and downs, But, every once in a while, someone does something really extraordinary – serving a customer, fixing an issue out on the floor, doing that extra little thing or solving one of your PIA (Pain In The @#$) Jobs.  When I can, I like to recognize that merit right on the spot. Watching the news this week, there was a story about the Purple Heart, established by George Washington 235 years ago this week.  It gave me pause, to think about the brave men and women who have served, and continue to serve,  keeping our country safe and secure.  May God bless all our service men and women who sacrificed so dearly for our amazing country, and thanks, once again to Wikipedia for the history and insights into this award.  God’s speed.

(top left) The Purple Heart established by George Washington 235 years ago. (middle images) Realities of war action and the confident faces of our military people. (bottom left) Two dogs have received the purple heart, one in WW I and one in WW II. In this photo, Xarius the Military Working Dog kisses his handler/friend, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Bush deployed in southwest Asia. Source: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock (CC by 2.0).  (bottom right) Showin’ some love.

  1. This week in 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, created the “Badge for Military Merit,” a decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with a narrow binding of silver, with the word Merit stitched across the face in silver. The badge was to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action” and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge. The honoree’s name and regiment were also to be inscribed in a “Book of Merit.”
  2. The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. With its forerunner, the Badge of Military Merit, which took the form of a heart made of purple cloth, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members.
  3. Washington’s “Purple Heart” was awarded by Washington himself to only three known soldiers during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. General Washington authorized his subordinate officers to issue Badges of Merit as appropriate. From then on, as its legend grew, so did its appearance.
  4. Although never abolished, the award of the badge was not proposed again officially until after World War I.  The decoration was largely forgotten until 1927, when General Charles P. Summerall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to “revive the Badge of Military Merit.” In 1931, Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, took up the cause, hoping to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. On February 22, 1932, Washington’s 200th birthday, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the “Order of the Purple Heart.”
  5. The Purple Heart award is a heart-shaped medal within a gold border, 1 3⁄8 inches wide, containing a profile of General George Washington. Above the heart appears a shield of the coat of arms of George Washington (a white shield with two red bars and three red stars in chief) between sprays of green leaves. The reverse consists of a raised bronze heart with the words FOR MILITARY MERIT below the coat of arms and leaves.  Additional awards of the Purple Heart are denoted by oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force, and additional awards are denoted by 5/16 inch stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
  6. In addition to aspects of Washington’s original design, the new Purple Heart also displays a bust of Washington and his coat of arms. The Order of the Purple Heart, the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.
  7. After March 28, 1973, the Purple Heart may be awarded as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of the Army, or jointly by the Secretaries of the separate armed services concerned if persons from more than one service are wounded in the attack. It may also be awarded as a result of military operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping force.
  8. The Purple Heart differs from most other decorations in that an individual is not “recommended” for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria. It is awarded for the first wound suffered under conditions indicated above, but for each subsequent award an oak leaf cluster or 5/16 inch star is worn in lieu of another medal. Not more than one award will be made for more than one wound or injury received at the same instant.
  9. From 1942 to 1997, civilians serving or closely affiliated with the armed forces—as government employees, Red Cross workers, war correspondents, and the like—were eligible to receive the Purple Heart. Among the earliest civilians to receive the award were nine firefighters of the Honolulu Fire Department killed or wounded while fighting fires at Hickam Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  About 100 men and women received the award, the most famous being newspaperman Ernie Pyle who was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously by the Army after being killed by Japanese machine gun fire in the Pacific Theater.
  10. The most recent Purple Hearts presented to civilians occurred after the terrorist attacks at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, in 1996—for their injuries, about 40 U.S. civil service employees received the award.
  11. In 1997, at the urging of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Congress passed legislation prohibiting future awards of the Purple Heart to civilians. Today, the Purple Heart is reserved for men and women in uniform. Civilian employees of the U.S. Department of Defense who are killed or wounded as a result of hostile action may receive the new Defense of Freedom Medal. This award was created shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
  12. While the award of the Purple Heart is considered automatic for all wounds received in combat, each award presentation must still be reviewed to ensure that the wounds received were as a result of enemy action. Modern day Purple Heart presentations are recorded in both hardcopy and electronic service records. The annotation of the Purple Heart is denoted both with the service member’s parent command and at the headquarters of the military service department. An original citation and award certificate are presented to the service member and filed in the field service record.
  13. During the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II, the Purple Heart was often awarded on the spot, with occasional entries made into service records. During mass demobilizations following each of America’s major wars of the 20th century, it was common occurrence to omit mention from service records of a Purple Heart award. This occurred due to clerical errors, and became problematic once a service record was closed upon discharge. Service personnel and families may request post service review and awards.
  14. In terms of keeping accurate records, it was commonplace for some field commanders to engage in bedside presentations of the Purple Heart. This typically entailed a general entering a hospital with a box of Purple Hearts, pinning them on the pillows of wounded service members, then departing with no official records kept of the visit, or the award of the Purple Heart. Service members, themselves, complicated matters by unofficially leaving hospitals, hastily returning to their units to rejoin battle so as to not appear a malingerer. In such cases, even if a service member had received actual wounds in combat, both the award of the Purple Heart, as well as the entire visit to the hospital, was unrecorded in official records.
  15. Animals are generally not eligible for the Purple Heart; however, there have been rare instances when animals holding military rank were honored with the award. An example includes the horse Sergeant Reckless during the Korean War.
  16. Notable recipients include Bryan Anderson, James Arness, Rocky Bleier, Charles Bronson, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, Charles Durning, James Garner, John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, Lee Marvin, John McCain, Colin Powell, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Rod Serling, Oliver Stone, Pat Tillman, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Chuck Yeager.
  17. The most Purple Heart awards (10) were received by Curry T. Haynes, US Army and Vietnam War.

It is estimated over 1.8 million service members and civilians have been recognized for their heroic service.  To learn more, visit




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