Purple Hearts: the Legacy of an Historic Medal

Nov 11, 2014

Credit patries71 / Flickr

Purple Heart recipient Captain Zachariah Fike has been helping to return lost medals to the families of their rightful owners. Since 2012 this founder of Purple Hearts Reunited has devoted his spare time to researching and repairing the medals. He joins us to discuss his work and the history of the Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart can be traced to the days of General George Washington as the Badge of Military Merit, explains Fike. It began as a cloth patch in the shape of a heart and colored purple, with the word “Merit” hand stitched across it. For over a hundred years the award effectively disappeared, until it was brought back by General Douglas MacArthur in the 1930s.

Since then, an estimated 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded. Fike founded Purple Hearts Reunited, he explains, after discovering military antiques that had become separated from the veterans and families to whom they had once belonged.