Military Order of the Purple Heart (medal)

 Jesse Brauner
Military Order of the Purple Heart (medal)

The official medal of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart is specifically awarded to members of the United States armed forces who have been injured by enemies in combat, or to that soldier’s next of kin if death resulted from enemy combat circumstances. Although the modern organization (sometimes referred to by the acronym MOPH) was founded in 1932, the concept of the Purple Heart is based on a much older tradition. In 1782, George Washington, America’s famed military commander and later the first president of the United States, acknowledged the contributions of non-commissioned soldiers who had served in the army for six years or more. He did this by presenting each solider with a heart-shaped badge of purple silk embroidered with the word “Merit”. Although this “Badge of Merit” was awarded specifically for courage in combat, not death or wounds at enemy hands, its design became the forerunner of the modern Purple Heart.

The medal itself is rich in symbolism: Inside the heart is a profile portrait of George Washington detailed in gold; the heart is topped by his family’s crest, a red and white stripped shield topped with three red stars and placed in between green leaves; and the reverse of the medal (not shown here) is inscribed with the words “For Military Merit”, acknowledging the recipient’s service to their country.