The Postal Service has re-issued the Purple Heart stamp for the sixth time to reflect the new First-Class Mail rate of 44 cents. First issued in 2003, the stamp is a reminder for anyone using it of the men and women serving our country in the military.
The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded in combat or to the next of kin of those killed in action.
The stamp image features a photograph by Ira Wexler of one of two Purple Hearts awarded to James Loftus Fowler of Alexandria, Virginia.
Fowler was a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marines and was serving as battalion commander of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, when he received this Purple Heart in 1968 following action close to the Ben Hai River on the border between North and South Vietnam.
History of the Purple Heart
Initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by General George Washington, the Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first American award made available to the common soldier.
In the summer of 1782, according to the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA, Washington recognized outstanding valor and merit of the common soldier by granting a commission, or an advance in rank, to deserving individuals. But, because there were no funds to pay the soldiers, much less the officers, he was ordered by the Continental Congress to cease the practice. Deprived of his usual means of reward, he must have searched for a substitute. Shortly after receiving the order, he wrote his General Orders of August 7, 1782.
"The General, ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers as well as foster and encourage every species of military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with due reward. The name and regiment of the persons so certified are to be enrolled in a Book of Merit which shall be kept in the orderly room.
"Men who have merited this distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The order to be retroactive to the earliest stages of the war, and to be a permanent one.
"The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all."
Lost or misfiled for almost 150 years among the War Department Records, this important paper came to light during the search for Washington’s papers prior to the celebration of his bicentennial in 1932.
The U.S. War Department revived the Purple Heart decoration on February 22, 1932. The honor is made of metal, instead of perishable cloth, and is made in the shape of a purple heart bordered with gold with a bust of Washington in the center and the Washington coat-of-arms at the top.
For more information on the Purple Heart, check the website purpleheart.org.
The Purple Heart definitive stamp is available in panes of 20.
For more information on the stamp, check the website usps.com.