“Being wounded or killed in any action against any enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.” Simple and to the point, these words are the basis for America’s oldest military decoration.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart, a revised Badge of Military Merit (introduced by General George Washington in 1782), was authorized and first presented in 1932. Recipients are not recommended for the decoration; they are entitled to it. (From 1942 until 1997, civilians were also eligible for the decoration). Since its inception, over 1.9 million and counting Purple Hearts have been presented. It must noted that nearly 300 women and counting have received the decoration.
As this nation struggles along, her history is no longer taught nor valued. Thus, newer generations suffer the embarrassment of not knowing who they are nor where their historical roots are. Future leaders of this nation are forced to leave behind a legacy that is now only remembered by a dwindling number of older citizens. It is no surprise,therefore, to find that the significance of Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day or Pearl Harbor Day has been lost on a self-indulgent, self-absorbed and self-satisfied nation. Millions not only don’t know, they don’t care. Such information is irrelevant. As such, it should be no surprise that millions of “enlightened” Americans are totally ignorant of the Purple Heart…ignorant of the pain and sacrifice that it represents. An overstuffed America has become a comic book nation with the emotional capacity and intellectual development of an adolescent.
The Purple Heart embodies the spirit and quality of unselfish service, dedication and sacrifice our men and women, especially those in uniform, have shown throughout our history. They’ve made sacrifices that few of us will ever be asked to make. Not until 2003 were those efforts finally recognized by the federal government with the issuance of the first Purple Heart stamp.
For too many years, this nation has taken for granted the pain…the suffering…the sacrifice our armed forces have endured in the performance of their duties on our behalf. The Purple Heart stamp is therefore critical to a nation that generally has an attention span of about 12 minutes; any longer than that and it’s ancient history. As Alexander Hamilton put it, “Man is very much a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses will generally have but a transient influence upon his mind.”
Therefore, we need a constant daily reminder of what our men and women risk when they put on the uniform of the United States military.With pride and without hesitation, municipalities, businesses, clubs, churches, service organizations and individuals need to use the Purple Heart, whenever possible, as their “everyday”, “go to” stamp in honor of that service, dedication and sacrifice.
Thus far though, this nation has failed miserably to realize that, in the end, many will make the ultimate sacrifice so that we Americans can enjoy the freedom of being self-indulgent, self-absorbed and self-satisfied .
James R. Puz