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Lakeland to Unveil Purple Heart Memorial


On August 7, 1782, Gen. George Washington established the Purple Heart medal for all wounded or killed in action according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last year, the State of Florida designated August 7 as Purple Heart Day. It's not an "official" holiday. Government offices remain open. Instead, the legislation stated that the day was set aside to honor and recognize veterans who had been wounded or lost their lives and their families.

Polk County Commissioners are taking that celebration a step further by unveiling a new Purple Heart monument at Veterans Memorial Park, 150 Lake Beulah Drive, Lakeland at 6 p.m. on August 7, 2013.

Congressman Daniel Webster is the scheduled keynote speaker. The Military Order of the Purple Heart will host a celebratory dinner reception at the Lakeland Center following the ceremony. It will include a USO-style show and awards ceremony.

The Purple Heart is the United States oldest military decoration that is still given to members of the U.S. military. It started with Gen. George Washington, who issued heart shaped purple pillows to wounded veterans (two of which are still in existence), as well as the Badge of Military Merit for enlisted servicemen injured during meritorious service. The modern Purple Heart was first awarded on May 28, 1932, to 138 World War I veterans at Temple Hill in New Windsor, N.Y., the site of the Continental Army's first encampment.

It's estimated that about 1.9 million service members have been awarded the Purple Heart from those who served in the Civil War to today's wars in the Middle East.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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