The Purple Heart Trail, currently recognized in 45 states, is to establish a network of roads, both honorary and symbolic, to honor all of the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart since its inception in 1782. The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army George Washington.
There have been nearly 2 million medals awarded to soldiers over the years. The award is given to soldiers wounded in action or killed in action. The medals are awarded to family members in the case of being killed in combat.
According to our friends at Wikipedia, from 1942 to 1997, civilians serving or closely affiliated with the armed forces—as government employees, Red Cross workers, war correspondents, and the like—were eligible to receive the Purple Heart. Among the earliest civilians to receive the award were nine firefighters of the Honolulu Fire Department killed or wounded while fighting fires at Hickam Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor. About 100 men and women received the award, the most famous being newspaperman Ernie Pyle who was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously by the Army after being killed by Japanese machine gun fire in the Pacific Theater, near the end of World War II. Before his death, Pyle had seen and experienced combat in the European Theater, while accompanying and writing about infantrymen for the folks back home.
The most recent Purple Hearts presented to civilians occurred after the terrorist attacks at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, in 1996—for their injuries, about 40 U.S. civil service employees received the award.
However, in 1997, at the urging of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Congress passed legislation prohibiting future awards of the Purple Heart to civilians. Today, the Purple Heart is reserved for men and women in uniform. Civilian employees of the U.S. Department of Defense who are killed or wounded as a result of hostile action may receive the new Defense of Freedom Medal. This award was created shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Purple Heart Trail, which originates in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, the burial site of George Washington, creates a visual reminder of all those recipients to those who travel the roadways. The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
A person could navigate a good portion of the US traveling on various roads with the Purple Heart trail designation though there is not a complete route of travel available from coast to coast on the Purple Heart trail.
According to www.purpleheartaustin.org, the Texas portion of the national Purple Heart Trail was designated as that part of Interstate 35 located in Texas, and made official by Acts of the 79th Texas Legislature that became effective September 1, 2005. Markers designed, constructed and erected by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) were entirely funded by donations raised by San Antonio’s Alamo Chapter 1836 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. That Chapter’s Patriot Tony Roman (who was also then Chief of Staff for Department of Texas, Military Order of the Purple Heart) headed a team that quickly secured donations providing all the original costs of the project. Most of the funding came from a single corporate sponsor.
The entire length of I-64 in Kentucky has been designated the Purple Heart Trail. It is marked with no less than 24 signs noting the stats of the roadway.
The Purple Heart Trail also coincides with many state, regional and local memorials to military veterans throughout the history of the United States.
California has a Faces of Freedom Veterans memorial located along it Purple Heart Trail on Highway 101 through the Central Coast of California, from Monterey to Santa Barbara counties
Interstates 70 and 44 are the designated routes of the Purple Heart Trail in Missouri. The roads are marked with no less than 16 signs. The sign shown with this story was taken on I-44.
In Jacksonville, Florida, The Purple Heart Trail begins at a monument at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena and ends at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall.
In Michigan, I-69 in Branch County has the Purple Heart Trail designation.
In Oklahoma, I-40 has been designated as the “Purple Heart Trail” in conjunction with the Memorial highways, which runs throughout the state. Oklahoma made the designation in 2003.
In Oregon of Interstate 5 is known as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway and the Purple Heart Trail.