Preserving Their Honor
By Pamela Moore, student, SUNY Empire State College
April 25, 2016
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor was established in 2006 with a mission to “collect, preserve and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across all conflicts for which the award has been available.” The museum is tucked away in New Windsor, NY, adjacent to the New Windsor Cantonment site, the last encampment of the Continental Army at the end of the Revolutionary War.
Peter Bedrossian, program director, took time to answer some questions, while showing me the recent renovations and the compelling new centerpiece of the museum – a life-size bronze statue featuring two soldiers supporting a wounded compatriot. The museum redesign is fresh and modern, highlighting the glass cases containing historical memorabilia, and provides ample space for viewing the digital wall displays. Visitors can explore several exhibits at the museum that honor those who have served and sacrificed for our nation throughout multiple conflicts, including displays of letters, telegrams, mementos and pictures from the battlefield, along with recorded personal recollection videos.
Bedrossian discussed a common misconception that General Washington bestowed actual Purple Heart medals on his soldiers, when, in fact, the originals were known as the Badge of Military Merit, and portrayed a “figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding.” There were only three awarded and the museum currently displays one of the original three (pictured at top). The badges were all but forgotten until revived in 1932 as “recognition of Washington's ideals and for the bicentennial of his birth.”
Initially being awarded only to Army and Army Air Corps personnel, by various presidential executive orders, the award requirements have been expanded, revised and updated with most recent changes allowing for awards to be considered for those wounded or killed in acts of domestic terrorism. Approximately 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded since 1932.
Since there is no official list containing the names of Purple Heart recipients, as with the Medal of Honor, the museum maintains the Honor Roll, a voluntary database that currently holds the records of more than 198,000 recipients, their pictures (if provided) and the dates of their awards. Enrollment in the Honor Roll database is a simple process, involving a downloadable form and documentation of the Purple Heart award for the applicant. The application can be completed by the veteran, next of kin, family or friends who have access to the proper documentation. The form and enrollment process are available at www.thepurpleheart.com. The Honor Roll is accessible in abbreviated format online, or visitors can access it through museum terminals.
Visitors can find a calendar of upcoming events on the Hall of Honor’s site. Interested day-trippers can visit other nearby Revolutionary War and military sites, including General Knox’s Headquarters or General Washington’s Headquarters, in Newburgh, N.Y.; Fort Putnam (seasonally); Constitution Island; and the military museum at West Point.
Photo used by express written permission: New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site New Windsor, N.Y. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
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The Cultural Diversity forum will be live streamed on April 27.
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