Our Opinion: Purple Hearts

Friday, June 16, 2006

The history of the Purple Heart dates back to the Revolutionary War when Gen. George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit in "the figure of a heart in purple cloth." Washington's aim was to recognize troops who had served under him with exceptional performance and were headed home after a long and bloody conflict.

The Purple Heart was reinstated in 1932 and was given retroactively to veterans of the Civil War and World War I. In 1942, the Purple Heart was restricted for the first time to soldiers wounded in enemy combat.

No one really knows who has received the Purple Heart, particularly those given during World War II and before.

Now the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is nearing completion. When it opens in November at Vails Gate, N.Y., veterans who have received the medal will have official recognition. Vails Gate, by the way, is north of New York City and is where Washington's army camped near the end of the Revolutionary War.

Officials of the state historic site have invited veterans and their families to share their stories about the Purple Heart. Information can be e-mailed to the Purple Heart Hall of Honor at nysparks.state.ny.us/heritage/purple_heart.asp.

So far, the hall of honor has had 5,000 responses. But there are thousands of recipients who can -- and should -- share their stories as well. Here is an opportunity to be part of history. Recipients of the Purple Heart deserve to receive all the recognition they can get.