Purple Heart Appreciation Day: Honoring Our Combat Veterans

The Purple Heart is America’s oldest military merit, originally created as the “Badge of Military Merit” more than 235 years ago to honor a soldier’s “singularly meritorious action.” The Order of the Purple Heart was established in 1932 and throughout history, more than 1.8 million brave soldiers have been awarded the Purple Heart in recognition of their sacrifices in combat and resilience as prisoners of war.

Indigenous peoples have contributed a high rate of representation to the armed forces and other branches for as long as the U.S. military has existed. Today, there are more than 31,000 Native Americans on active duty, and 140,000 American Indian veterans, many of which hold the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and/or Congressional Medal of Honor.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 19 percent of Native Americans serve in the military a higher rate than any other minority in America. One could attribute it to our own war-torn history, or the need to defend our homes and protect our people, or to honor our “peace and friendship” accords with the U.S. despite its many broken promises to Native communities. In some cases, the military can also offer an escape from joblessness or an uncertain future, and fulfill a need for purpose and contribution.

In the past, we introduced Lawrence Wright Jr, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is now furthering his contribution to the defense of our country by pursuing a Master’s in Emergency Management and Homeland Security (with the support of our AIEF scholarship program). Despite incurring numerous injuries while on duty, Lawrence was not discouraged and today is motivated to make something of himself that he may honor his fellow Marines who sacrificed their lives in Iraq. Lawrence shared in a recent update that he completed his Emergency Management studies last month and will be starting law school at Arizona State University next month. 

Service in the military is a special kind of duty and giving. When all is said and done, those who are recipients of the Purple Heart are honored because they truly have given all they have — body and mind — to fight for their country. As Purple Heart Appreciation Day approaches on August 7, we honor all combat veterans and recipients who hold this badge of military merit, and remember their sacrifices for all of us.

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