National Archives This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

On this day in 1782, General George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit.  This decoration, consisting of a simple, heart-shaped purple cloth, recognized soldiers who went above and beyond the call of duty in service to our new Nation.

Since the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit has evolved into one of the most sacred, distinguished, and recognizable military medals—the Purple Heart.  This award symbolizes the timeless and noble values of patriotism, honor, and courage, which are hallmarks of our Armed Forces.  In every generation, the Purple Heart has been awarded to American service members in recognition of their devotion to duty and sacrifice on the battlefield.  Some recipients have lost their lives in the defense of our great Nation, while others have suffered life-changing injuries while safeguarding our liberty.  All have displayed uncommon courage as they distinguished themselves in combat, and they remain a revered class of American patriots to whom we owe our everlasting respect and gratitude.

Today, on the 236th anniversary of the Purple Heart, we honor the members of our Armed Forces for serving as the vanguard of American democracy and freedom around the world.  Their devotion to duty and love for this country ensure each new generation may enjoy the blessings of liberty, peace, and prosperity.  We also continue to pledge our boundless gratitude and support for our strong and resilient military families.  They endure tremendous sacrifices, bear the greatest burdens of every loss, and instill in each of us enduring love and respect.

Melania joins me in thanking all those who have served and who continue to serve our Nation in uniform, and we send our best wishes to those marking this day through special ceremonies and events.