This Sunday, August 7, is Purple Heart Day, a time to honor all the brave men and women who have been wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.

The name, Purple Heart Day, comes from a medal, the Purple Heart, that is given to those wounded or killed as a result of enemy action.

Another name for the U.S. military is the U.S. Armed Forces. The Armed Forces of our country has six groups, usually called branches. The six branches of the U.S. Armed Forces are: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard.

There are many awards and medals that people in the Armed Forces can receive, such as a Good Conduct Medal, a Silver Star, or the highest, the Medal of Honor. People have to be recommended for most medals. That is, those who saw a person do something brave in combat have to write reports about it that say the person should get an award. There is an investigation, and leaders will decide if the person should get the medal or not.

The Purple Heart is different. If a person is wounded or killed by enemy action, that person automatically receives a Purple Heart. A wound, however, must have been treated by medical workers and there must be a record of the wound and treatment in a person’s medical records.

The medal is quite beautiful. It has a gold, heart-shaped border. Inside the heart is a purple background. On the background is a gold side-view of George Washington, the first president of the United States. The top of the gold heart is attached to a purple ribbon.


The reason that George Washington is on the Purple Heart is that during the Revolutionary War, he created a special award called the Badge of Military Merit. It was a purple, heart-shaped piece of cloth that had the word, Merit, stitched on it in gold thread.

It is believed that the heart was purple because that color represents courage and bravery.

Over the years, the Badge of Military Merit went through various changes until in the 1940s, during World War II, it became the Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members. From George Washington’s day to now, more than two million men and women have received Purple Hearts.

Though the medal is not new, Purple Heart Day is. It began in 2014 and is celebrated on August 7th each year.

There are many ways that people celebrate Purple Heart Day. It might be something simple like just thinking about military people who were wounded or killed.


It might be sending thank you cards or letters to people serving in the Armed Forces.

It might be visiting people who live in Veterans Homes.

Some people wear something purple — maybe a purple shirt or a ribbon or a hat — on August 7th.

Some towns, like Danvers, Massachusetts, shine  purple lights on their town halls.

Other places, like Lawrenceville, Georgia, encourage everyone who lives there to use purple light bulbs on that day.

In New York, there is a National Purple Heart Hall of Honor that is collecting the names and stories of people who have received Purple Hearts.


Maine has a Purple Heart Memorial in Bangor. It is a granite stone monument that says “Dedicated to all men and women wounded in all our wars.”

Most states have segments of roads or highways that are called Purple Heart Trails. In Maine, I-95 from Augusta to Holton is a Purple Heart Trail.

Fun Facts:

•  John F. Kennedy is the only U.S. president to earn a Purple Heart. He received it while serving in the Navy during World War II.

•  Not just people, but animals can receive Purple Hearts, if they are officially part of the military. For example, Sgt. Stubby (a dog) and Sgt. Reckless (a horse) earned Purple Hearts. (Sgt is short for sergeant.)

•  It’s possible to receive more than one Purple Heart. Men and women who are wounded more than once might have two, three, or more awards. A man named Charles Barger, who served in the Army during World War I, was wounded many times and received 10 Purple Hearts!

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