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thedrifter
08-08-07, 02:15 PM
Purple Heart Hall marks anniversary of award
By Michael Hill - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Aug 8, 2007 7:50:18 EDT

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Gen. George Washington created a heart-shaped award made from purple fabric as his battle-weary troops camped here 225 years ago.

Since then, Purple Hearts have been awarded to roughly 1.5 million U.S. service men and women wounded or killed in combat in such far-off locations as the beaches of Normandy, the jungles of Vietnam, and now, increasingly, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hundreds of veterans from around the country watched three service members receive the award Tuesday as the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor commemorated the anniversary of the award’s inception. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., helped unveil a new memorial to Purple Heart recipients.

The service members included Aaron Moquin, a 28-year-old former New York Army National Guard soldier whose left leg was hit by shrapnel while on patrol near Balad, Iraq, in April 2004.

“It’s an award that nobody ever really thinks they’re going to get,” said Moquin.

Washington ordered the creation of the Purple Heart’s predecessor, the Badge of Military Merit, on Aug. 7, 1782 as his army camped here on a bit of high land 50 miles north of New York City. The award, given for exceptional performance, inspired the introduction of the Purple Heart in 1932. The Purple Heart was later restricted to those “wounded in action against any enemy” starting in World War II.

The Hall of Honor opened in November to tell the stories of American troops wounded or killed in action. The state-run attraction features a database that allows visitors to read about 77,000 Purple Heart recipients.

Robert Burr, who was hit by shrapnel on Heartbreak Ridge in Korea in 1951, and Charles Sharp, who was shot on two occasions, in 1968 and 1969 in Vietnam, were among those who added information to their database entries Tuesday.

“It makes me proud that I made it,” said Burr, a 76-year-old resident of Delaware, Ohio. “A lot of my buddies didn’t.”

From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 28,552 service members wounded and 3,245 killed in action are eligible for the Purple Heart, according to Clinton’s office.

Otha Jackson, an 82-year-old World War II veteran who was shot in Manila in 1945, said the hall is important to honor all veterans’ sacrifices.

“We want keep this going, these memories as long as we live,” said Jackson. “People have a tendency to forget.”

Ellie