Today, August 7, marks National Purple Heart Day. This is a special day on which we recognize recipients of the Purple Heart. Saint Leo University has a long and proud history of educating our nation's men and women in uniform, and we salute all who have served our nation on this day and throughout the year.

Starting in the fall of 2017, our University Campus will have two parking spaces designated for Purple Heart recipients for student veterans and military members as another special way of recognizing their tremendous service. Similar parking spaces will be designated at some of our centers around the country as well

What is the Purple Heart?

The Purple Heart is a U.S. military medal primarily given to servicemembers who have been wounded in combat or in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It is presented in the name of the sitting U.S. president and is widely viewed as one of the most respected military honors. It is also the oldest military award still given out today.

More specifically, it is a heart shaped, gold rimmed brass medallion that has a profile of George Washington on a purple enamel base. Directly above this profile of Washington is a shield of his family's code of arms.

On the reverse side of the medal, there is a raised heart with the words "For Military Merit" inscribed in it.

The medal, which is handmade by a private company, hangs from a woven purple ribbon with white stripes.

When was the Purple Heart created?

Originally called the Badge of Military Merit, an early incarnation of the Purple Heart was designed by then-General George Washington on August 7, 1782. Hence, this is why August 7 became a national day to recognize the Purple Heart. It was presented to 3 Revolutionary War soldiers the following year. This decoration was simply a heart made of purple cloth.

The modern version of the medal was first revamped by General Douglas MacArthur on February 22, 1932 – the bicentennial of Washington's birthday – and has been bestowed upon eligible servicemembers ever since. It was also retroactively awarded to servicemembers starting on April 5, 1917, which marked when the United States entered World War I.

Who can receive the Purple Heart?

This prestigious symbol of sacrifice is given to any member of the armed forces or any civilian national who is wounded, killed, or has died or may die due to sustained wounds from enemy forces in a combat situation. It may also be awarded to those who are injured as a result of an act of terrorism or being a prisoner of war.

How many Americans have received a Purple Heart?

Estimates say that about 1.8 million American military personnel have received a Purple Heart over the decades over which it has been awarded.

In recent years, over 20,000 servicemembers have been granted a Purple Heart since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, New York holds a national registry of Purple Heart recipients.

Share Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the Purple Heart? Are you a recipient, or do you know someone who has received one? Tell us about it in the comments section below.