Mr. Speaker, August 7th marked the 236th anniversary of the creation of one of our nation’s most iconic military decorations: the Purple Heart.
On August 7, 1782, General George Washington ordered the creation of the Badge for Military Merit, to be presented to soldiers who demonstrated exceptional bravery in battle. The award was marked by a heart-shaped piece of purple cloth, intended to be worn on the left side of the recipient’s chest.
Only three soldiers—Sergeants Daniel Bissell, William Brown, and Elijah Churchill—received this decoration during the Revolutionary War. Though this award was the precursor for our nation’s highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the government gave no other soldiers the Badge for Military Merit until the 20th Century. Then, it was General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the Army at the time, who helped resurrect this award in 1932, when the War Department created the Order of the Purple Heart.
Since then, millions of American servicemen and women have received this decoration after being wounded in battle. From the World Wars to the current wars in the Middle East, the recipients of this decoration represent a special fraternity—Americans who have shed their blood defending our country and our liberties.
One such individual was Sergeant John W. Hall. Sergeant Hall served with the U.S. Army’s 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, during the Korean War. In November 1950, his unit received orders to move from Kunu-ri to Sunchon, North Korea.
Moving through an area dubbed ‘‘the Gauntlet’’ due to the high concentration of Chinese forces threatening the Americans’ path to Sunchon, Hall went missing, but his fate was discovered after the war when a returning American prisoner of war reported that Hall had died at the Hofong POW Camp—more commonly known as ‘‘Death Valley’’—in early 1951.
Over the next several decades, attempts were made to recover, identify, and ultimately return Hall’s remains to the United States. Finally, in June 2017, state of the art DNA testing successfully identified remains found as his. On July 3rd of this year, his remains were finally transported back to the United States, to my home city of Houston, and under the Texas sun, he was buried with full military honors on American soil.
At the ceremony, the Army posthumously awarded Hall the Purple Heart. Mr. Speaker, the Purple Heart is a vital pillar of the American democracy. It honors the sacrifice of the American warrior, the rare breed, and it reminds us that freedom is not free. May we continue to remember those who wear the Purple Heart on their uniform, because the worst casualty of war is to be forgotten.
And that is just the way it is.