Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representing the 18th District of TEXAS


Dec 21, 2015
Press Release

HOUSTON, TX – Congresswoman Jackson Lee today will present the Purple Heart to Vietnam Veteran and Constituent Earl J. Barnes. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is a combat decoration. The Congresswoman released the following statement:

“The award known as the Purple Heart has a history that reaches back to the waning days of the American Revolution. It is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. Introduced as the ‘Badge of Military Merit’ by General George Washington in 1782, the Purple Heart is also the nation’s oldest military award. In military terms, the award had “broken service,” as it was ignored for nearly 150 years until it was re-introduced on February 22, 1932, on the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The Continental Congress had forbidden General George Washington from granting commissions and promotions in rank to recognize merit. Yet Washington wanted to honor merit, particularly among the enlisted soldiers.

“On August 7, 1782, from his headquarters in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington wrote: ‘... The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit directs whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding.’

“This award was open only to enlisted men and granted them the distinction of being permitted to pass all guards and sentinels as could commissioned-officers. The names of the recipients were to have been kept in a "Book of Merit" (which has never been recovered). At the present time there are three known recipients of the Badge of Military Merit: Sergeant Elijah Churchill, 2nd Continental Dragoons; Sergeant William Brown, 5th and Sergeant Daniel Bissel, 2nd Connecticut Continental Line Infantry.

“Washington stated that the award was to be a permanent one, but once the Revolution ended, the Badge of Merit was all but forgotten until the 20th century. General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing suggested a need for an award for merit in 1918, but it was not until 1932 that the Purple Heart was created in recognition of Washington's ideals and for the bicentennial of his birth. General Order No.3 announced the establishment of the award:

“On May 28, 1932, 137 World War I veterans were conferred their Purple Hearts at Temple Hill, in New Windsor, NY. Temple Hill was the site of the New Windsor Cantonment, which was the final encampment of the Continental Army in the winter of 1782-1783. Today, the National Purple Heart continues the tradition begun here in 1932, of honoring those who have earned the Purple Heart.

“Today we honor Sergeant Earl J. Barnes in the same vain and purpose as General Washington did 1782.  Sgt. Barnes’ service to this nation and his valor on the battlefield is most deserving of this prestigious honor.  He sacrificed his body so that the body of our Constitution could live on.  It took four years for him to recover from his combat wounds and our nation will forever be grateful for his service. As General Washington did in 1782, I am most pleased to confer the Purple Heart to Sergeant Earl J. Barnes on this the 21st day of December 2015 in the year of our Lord.   Again thank you for your service to the greatest nation on earth and we wish you well as you fight yet another battle.  May God Bless You!  May God Bless America.”