The origin of the Purple Heart medal is as old as the Republic itself.

With the Revolutionary War coming to an end, Gen. George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782 created the Badge for Military Merit, a decoration made of purple silk in the shape of a heart.

The U.S. War Department created the Order of the Purple Heart on Feb. 22, 1932 -- the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth.

The Purple Heart medal, awarded to members of the armed forces who were killed or wounded in action against an enemy, and to prisoners of war, features a bust of Washington and his coat of arms.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart, a veterans service organization, in 1992 established the first Purple Heart Trail, originating in Mont Vernon, Va., where Washington is buried. There are now trails in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and Guam.

Daniel Eddinger, national coordinator for the Purple Heart Trail, said the trail's purpose is to remind the public of those who sacrificed for their country. “It’s the outward expression of an inward desire to honor those people,” he said.

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