The Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or to any civilian national of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Forces, since April 1917 has been wounded, killed, or who has died or may die of wounds received from an opposing enemy force while in armed combat or as a result of an act of international terrorism or being a Prisoner of War.
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Purple Heart Ribbon (Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy)
The Purple Heart Medal is America’s oldest military decoration. It was originally established on August 7, 1782 by General George Washington who designed the original award called the “Badge of Military Merit" which was awarded for singularly meritorious action to a deserving hero of the Revolutionary War. There were only three recipients of the award, all of whom were non-commissioned officers of the Continental Army. The Badge of Military Merit was intended by Washington to be a permanent decoration, but was never used again after the three initial presentations until it was reestablished as the Purple Heart Medal on February 22, 1932 (the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth) by the Army War Department.
On July 21, 1932, General Douglas MacArthur, who was a key figure in its revival, received the first Purple Heart Medal after it was reestablished. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order on December 3, 1942 that expanded the award to members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard as well. Although the Purple Heart Medal was awarded for meritorious service between 1932 and 1943, the primary purpose of the award has always been to recognize those who received wounds while in the service of the United States military.