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What is the Purple Heart Trail?

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The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) to be a symbolic trail that commemorates and honours all men and women who have been wounded or killed in combat while serving the U.S. armed forces. The trail originates in Mount Vernon, Virginia – the burial location of General George Washington – and traverses across the United States and overseas as far as Puerto Rico and Guam. The signage program consists of the designation of an extensive system of roads, highways, bridges and memorials that pay tribute to the recipients of the Purple Heart medal and act as a visual reminder to those travellers that others have paid a high price for their freedom and live in a free society. The tradition of the Purple Heart dates back to the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington created the 'Badge of Military Merit' to honour gallantry. This cloth badge fell into disuse after the war but on 22 February 1932 in honour of the bicentennial anniversary of George Washington's birth, General Douglas MacArthur restored it as the 'Purple Heart' medal.

The origin of the Purple Heart Trail is well defined on the monument dedicated on 7 August 1998 at Mount Vernon, whereby it "commemorates the establishment of the Purple Heart decoration by General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, on August 7, 1782" and "the Purple Heart Trail memorializes those patriots who were awarded the Purple Heart medal in combat in defense of their nation." The idea of the Purple Heart Trail came from Frank J. Kuhn, Jr., and was established at the national level by George Gallagher – both from Virginia – as a resolution during the 1992 national convention of the MOPH held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The design of the tablet was created by Mickey Gallagher, the wife of George Gallagher. There are many such tablets erected across the U.S., including one that was fittingly placed at MacArthur Square, Norfolk, Virginia and dedicated on 22 February 2003. As shown in the photograph, "This monument commemorates General Douglas MacArthur who, as chief of staff of the Army, revived the Badge of Military Merit and renamed it the Purple Heart Medal on February 22, 1932 in honor of the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth. This monument memorializes those patriots, living and departed, who were awarded the Purple Heart medal by a grateful nation for the wounds they suffered in combat in defense of their country".

On this day, 7 August 2022, we commemorate the 240th anniversary of the creation of General George Washington's original concept of the Purple Heart and mark 29 years since the establishment of the Purple Heart Trail across the United States.

André M. Levesque

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