Few military awards carry as much honor
. . . and emotion . . . then the
Purple Heart. This military decoration is awarded by the
President of the United States to those wounded or killed
while serving in the U.S. Military on or after April 5,
1917. It is the oldest award given to military personnel.
Some specific reasons for awarding the Purple Heart include
injury or death as the result of:
- Any action against an enemy of the U.S.
- 3Opposing an armed force of a foreign country which is or
has been engaged against the U.S. military.
- Service with friendly foreign forces in a situation where
the U.S. is not a belligerent party.
- An act of any enemy opposing U.S. armed forces.
- An act of any hostile foreign force.
The Purple Heart stands out from all other military awards
in a particular way: a person is not “recommended” for this
decoration but is entitled to it upon meeting specific
criteria such as that listed above. However, each award
situation is reviewed to be sure that the injury or death
was caused directly by enemy action. The award is given for
the first wound suffered, with an oak leaf cluster given for
It's specifically stated that not more than one Purple Heart
will be given for injuries received simultaneously. A
“wound” is considered injury to any part of the body
sustained in the conditions above that required treatment by
a medical officer and that is documented in an official
Injuries that justify receiving a Purple Heart include those
caused by enemy bullets, shrapnel, land mines, naval mines
or traps. It can also be given due to injury from chemical,
biological or nuclear agents as well as vehicle or aircraft
accidents and enemy-generated explosions. In specific
situations, the Purple Heart can be awarded immediately to
wounded soldiers on the field of battle and it can also be
Many Have Sacrificed
Starting with World War I about 2 million Purple Heart
awards have been presented, the largest number (1,076,245)
given to those who served in World War II. About 35,000
Purple Hearts have been awarded to those serving in Iraq and
approximately 7,000 to military personnel in Afghanistan.
A Civilian Counterpart
Contractors working alongside military personnel who are
injured or killed as the result of enemy actions are not
eligible for the Purple Heart. However, companies such
have their own special awards for these employees. One
contractor, for example, has a Chairman's Purple Award that
is given with as much honor and gratitude as the Purple
While all of our military and civilian personnel deserve
gratitude, those receiving the Purple Heart or its civilian
equivalent have given more of themselves in the performance
of duty . . . often making the ultimate sacrifice.
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