WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base made history Dec. 10 as it became the first active duty military base to receive the Purple Heart designation. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base now joins the Purple Heart Trail community alongside its neighboring municipalities.
The Purple Heart Award is the eldest military decoration in the world. Its history dates back to Aug. 7, 1782 in which General George Washington established a Badge of Military Merit for enlisted soldiers through his orders, despite Continental Congress forbidding Washington to grant commissions and promotions in rank.
It originally was only available to enlisted men and would grant them the ability to pass all guards and sentinels alongside commissioned officers. A “Book of Merit” contained the names of the first recipients. However, according to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base officials, it has never been recovered.
The Purple Heart medal was officially created in 1932 to honor Washington’s ideals with the assistance of Elizabeth Wills, who designed the military decoration as a purple heart outlined with a gold trim. That same year, an association dedicated to the award was also established. At the time, it was only open to soldiers serving in the Army or Army Air Corps and could not be awarded posthumously to the next of kin.
According to Purple Heart Trail Coordinator for the State of Ohio Randy Howson, Franklin D. Roosevelt established in 1942 that service members in the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard were also eligible to earn the Purple Heart Award. It also became available to be awarded posthumously to next of kin to any military official who made the ultimate sacrifice on or after Dec. 6, 1941.
While the Purple Heart Award was originally an award of merit, it became unnecessary in 1942 when the Legion of Merit was created. The Purple Heart Award, as it stands now, is given to United States Armed Forces members who were injured or killed after April 5, 1917 while serving in any capacity of the United States military.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base now joins hundreds of cities, villages, counties and bridges to receive the designation, including the Cities of Fairborn, Riverside, Beavercreek, Huber Heights, Bellbrook and more. Howsen said the State of Ohio was the first to be established as a Purple Heart state and the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team is the first Purple Heart team. The Cities of Loveland and Brookville are scheduled to become designated Purple Heart Cities, among other municipalities.
“This is the result of a conversation that turned into a dream about a little more than a year ago about the important value that Wright-Patterson is the community and the community is Wright-Patterson,” said Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and Installation commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base reported in a press release describing the ceremony that the Purple Heart Trail is an assembly of communities throughout the United States that have sought designation as Purple Heart cities and states, as well as bridges, highways, roads and monuments that are created or appointed to recognize Purple Heart recipients, which serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who have been awarded the Purple Heart.
“No words can describe the level of respect for the sacrifice [members of our Armed Forces made] so that Americans can continue to live [free],” Sherman said.
Individuals who work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were encouraged during the proclamation made during the ceremony Dec. 10 to honor the sacrifices made by Purple Heart recipients. The proclamation also stated that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will recognize Purple Heart Day, which takes place on Aug. 7 each year.