Patriotism. Service. Sacrifice.
For many Americans, these words evoke a sense of pride that make us think of parades, waving flags and fireworks.
They also call to mind our founding ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This creed is the lifeblood for our nation and its people, even during times when the daily newscast might make that seem uncertain.
Since the days of the Revolution, in the fields of Lexington and Concord, Americans have always answered the call to serve and protect not only our shores but people the world over from the evils of terrorism, Nazism and communism. The Greatest Generation, now dwindling in numbers, saved the world from oppression.
More recently, brave men and women carried our nation’s flag through the jungles of Vietnam, across the sands of Iraq and atop the mountains of Afghanistan. Throughout these times, more than 1.8 million Americans have shed blood or lost their lives at the hands of the enemies of freedom.
For their scars and sacrifice, these brave Americans have been recognized with a singular recognition, designed in the shape of a heart, colored purple and emblazoned with the likeness of America’s most famous soldier – Gen. George Washington.
These Purple Heart heroes epitomize all that makes our country great. Each one has been willing to lay down their life for friends, family, community and country. They represent the true cost of freedom. Their selfless service is what we honor each year on National Purple Heart Day, August 7.
Originally conceived by General Washington on August 7, 1782 at his headquarters in Newburgh, N.Y., as the Badge for Military Merit, the citation was bestowed upon a recipient who performed a singular meritorious action.
In February 1932, on the 200th Anniversary of Washington's birth, the award was recast in its modern form, as the Purple Heart medal. The criteria for presentation was also updated to recognize a service member who is injured by any enemy or to be presented posthumously to the next of kin for those who are killed in action.
For Purple Heart recipients, and all who serve in our armed forces, the award remains unique. It is the one award no one ever wants to receive, but perhaps is no prouder to wear if earned.
It is worn humbly and proudly by so many, not because it is a symbol of their own sacrifice but a testament to the service of those who did not make it home and all those who bear the physical and emotional scars of war. A reminder that they did not fight and die in vain.
Today, our country seems more divided than any point in generations. Whether in our political discourse, online or even in our streets, our long-held belief of American exceptionalism, that commitment to freedom, and that sense of loyalty – to God and country – seems to be faded.
This National Purple Heart Day, as our nation faces the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest, our nation can look to our Purple Heart recipients as symbols of our strength, courage and resiliency as a nation. Our Purple Heart recipients offer us an opportunity to unite.
They represent all that is truly special about our country. We watched each other’s backs. We love one another. We were truly brothers and sisters in arms. That’s what America is all about.
Today we remember all those who represent the true cost of freedom. We honor all those who have left our shores, never to return, as well those who came back with scars that often never heal. Today, salute our Purple Heart heroes.
When our nation asked, who shall we send, they responded “send me.” They are deserving of so much more than our praise.
They are deserving of our respect, our gratitude and, most importantly, our commitment to honor them by working together to keeping our nation the United States of America.