BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AFGHANISTAN
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The Purple Heart medal is not an award many Soldiers aim to receive, but, for those who have, it may be one of the most honorable medals they wear on their chest.
On Aug. 7, 1782, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, created the Badge for Military Merit. It consisted 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 presented to Soldiers for any singular meritorious action.
The Purple Heart was awarded to only three known Soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
In 1931, General Douglas MacArthur, hoped to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of 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.
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.
The current Purple Heart displays a bust of Washington and his coat of arms.
Purple Heart day is dedicated to honoring service members, past and present, who have received the Purple Heart medal.
Sgt. 1st Class Rueda De Leon, a Camarillo, California native, first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 419th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, received the Purple Heart when his truck was hit by a roadside bomb in 2005 while operating in southern Afghanistan.
He lost two friends during the attack and said it was one of the reasons he remained in the military.
“Many of my friends and family thought I was nuts for wanting to come back for another deployment, to include the wives of my two best friends,” said De Leon. “I felt that I needed to close out a missing puzzle piece and felt that as long as I can still carry a rucksack and fire a weapon, I would still be able to give something back and honor my two brothers.”
Some states have designated Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day. For example, the state of Wisconsin encourages the people and organizations to display the American flag as a public expression of recognition to those who were wounded or killed in action, fighting.
1st Sgt. Kenneth Hood, a Columbus, Ohio native, first sergeant for the 297th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 419th CSSB, received the Purple Heart after a high explosive round exploded approximately eight meters away from him in 2012 while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in eastern Afghanistan.
He said he has three reasons why he continues to serve. One is that he feels it’s his responsibility to ensure the sons, daughters, mothers and fathers are trained and prepared for combat.
He felt it was his destiny to serve his country as a Soldier.
“The military was my life calling,” said Hood. “Since I was a child watching G.I Joe, I always knew somehow if given the chance I would become a Soldier in the Army.”
He said another reason he continued to serve was because he wanted his three sons to have a positive role model, which he says paid off since his oldest son is applying to the U.S. Military Academy in the near future.
For some Soldiers who have received the medal, this day may mean a lot to them.
“One thing I do know is that August 7 is a day I will always cherish and respect,” said De Leon.
||BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AF
||CAMARILLO, CA, US
||COLUMBUS, OH, US
This work, Purple Heart recipients continue to serve, by SSG Michael Selvage, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.