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Where Did the Purple Heart Come From?

purple heart, military award, metal
The idea of the purple heart originated with General George Washington in 1782. (Image credit: U.S. Army | Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Back on an August day in 1782, General George Washington ordered a "Badge of Military Merit" created. It had a purple cloth heart with a silver braided edge. Only three people are known to have been given the award during the Revolutionary War, and the idea got lost in the shuffle of a radically changing country. In 1932, on the 200th anniversary of Washington's birth, the concept was revived by the U.S. War Department and the name changed to the Purple Heart. Bearing an image of Washington, it is awarded to troops injured by the enemy.

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Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.