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Wisconsin's Purple Heart Day

August 04, 2010 | 07:34 AM
The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in current use and the first American award made available to the common soldier. It was initially created 228 years ago, as the "Badge of Military Merit" by one of the world's most celebrated heroes — Gen. George Washington. It originally was a purple cloth heart edged in silver braid, and was to be worn over the left breast of the uniform.

The award was revived as a purple medal with George Washington's likeness as the center piece and renamed the "Purple Heart" in 1932 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birthday of General Washington. This change was made by one-time Wisconsin resident, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Purple Heart Day is celebrated on Aug. 7 of each year.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of our armed forces who are wounded or killed in the line of duty. In fact, while serving in Europe during World War II, my father was injured by shrapnel from a Panzer tank and was subsequently awarded the Purple Heart. In turn, it gave me great pride to lend my support to establish this day here in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's Purple Heart Day was first enacted on April 24, 2002. I also supported the 2007 Senate Joint Resolution 53, which recognized the 75th Anniversary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. This organization was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, it is the only veteran's service organization comprised strictly of combat veterans.

Information on Wisconsin veteran benefits and programs can be found on either the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) website at: www.dva.state.wi.us or you can also request a 2010-2011 Wisconsin Veteran's State Programs and Service booklet from the (DVA) toll-free at (800) WIS-VETS (1-800-947-8387).

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of benefits including education, compensation, pension, housing and healthcare. For information or to enroll for benefits, including healthcare, contact your County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) or visit the federal VA website at www.va.gov or call toll-free at (800) 827-1000.

In Wisconsin, state law mandates that each of Wisconsin's 72 counties provide a CVSO to assist the county's residents with state and federal veteran's benefits. CVSO's are most Wisconsin veterans' first point of contact for benefits and eligibility questions. A complete listing of CVSOs by county is available at www.dva.state.wi.us in your local phone book under county government.

As we mark the 78th anniversary of Purple Heart Day, take time to remember the military service members who have served in military conflicts over the years, as well as those who continue to serve today. These individuals deserve our gratitude for the great sacrifices they made while defending the freedoms we all enjoy.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI, 53707-7882, or by calling toll-free (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com.

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