By Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks)
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who are wounded or killed during service. It was created by Gen. George Washington, whose appreciation of the importance of a soldier in any campaign impelled him to recognize outstanding valor and merit by granting a commission or an advance in rank for the person concerned.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 1782, he was ordered by the Continental Congress to cease doing so – as there were no funds to pay the soldiers, much less the officers. Deprived of his usual means of reward, he searched for a substitute. On Aug. 7, 1782, he created the Badge of Military Merit, later to be known as the Purple Heart.
The Purple Heart has since become the oldest military decoration in the world still in present use.
To further honor our country’s heroes who have been wounded or killed in action, I authored a resolution designating Aug. 7, 2018, as Purple Heart Day in Pennsylvania. Approved by the House on June 22, Pennsylvania became the 24th state to honor its military veterans wounded and killed in combat by becoming a Purple Heart state. Companion legislation in the Senate authored by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) was also passed.
I am hopeful this designation will gain attention and encourage every American to pause at some point during the day on Aug. 7 and think about the sacrifices of hundred of thousands of men and women who have suffered injuries and given their lives in the advancement and protection of our freedom and all that we hold dear.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart – an organization established in 1932 that strives to foster an environment of goodwill among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support legislative initiatives, and provide services to all veterans and their families – established the Purple Heart Trail in 1992. It is a symbolic trail that runs throughout all 50 states to commemorate and honor all men and women who have been wounded or killed in combat.
In Pennsylvania, the trail, known as the Purple Heart Highway, winds through 100 miles of Huntingdon, Centre, Union, Northumberland, and Montour counties on State Route 45. This route was chosen due to its proximity to many recipients of the Purple Heart residing in the Commonwealth.
The Purple Heart Trail actually begins at a monument in Mt. Vernon, VA, where George Washington is buried.
This is yet another reminder and acknowledgement of the brave men and women who were injured or killed during their service to our country.
Please join me is paying tribute to our combat-wounded and fallen soldiers on Tuesday, Aug. 7 – Purple Heart Day.
Representative Ryan Mackenzie
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman