History of oldest medal
The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration still given to U.S. troops and has been awarded to almost 2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines since 1932.
To qualify for the medal, the service man or woman must have been wounded or killed in action against enemy forces.
The original Purple Heart was established by George Washington, then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, in 1782 and called the Badge of Military Merit.
After being awarded to three Revolutionary War soldiers, the award of the medal was not proposed again until after World War I.
In 1931, the badge was reworked into a new design that features a purple heart that is slightly under 2 inches wide and bordered with gold.
Within the heart is a profile of Washington and, above and between sprays of green leaves, is a replica of the Washington Coat of Arms, which is a white shield with two red bars and three red stars at the top.
A raised Bronze heart with “For Military Merit” is engraved below the coat of arms and leaves on the reverse side.
The new design became official when the medal was revived on the 200th Anniversary of Washington’s birth, Feb. 22. 1932, to honor his many military achievements.
The first Purple Heart was awarded to Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was chief of staff in the Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Although the Purple Heart was initially handed out for wounds sustained in battle and meritorious performance of duty, the latter was discontinued by the end of 1942.
The Department of Defense estimated in 2010 that 320,518 of the medals had been awarded to troops in World War I, 1,076,425 in World War II, 118,650 in Korea, 351,794 in Vietnam and 607 in the Persian Gulf War. Veterans in Iraq earned 7,027 and 35,321 have been given out, to date, in the Afghanistan war, which is still underway.
An Iraq combat veteran is forming Chapter 832 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart to bring local wounded warriors together for support and community outreach...