On August 7, 1782, George Washington ordered the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to be awarded for bravery in battle. The predecessor of the Purple Heart, it’s one of the oldest military awards worldwide that is open to all who are wounded in battle.
“Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countryman,” wrote Washington in 1782, in the order that established the Badge of Military Merit. Three soldiers are known to have received the award directly from Washington, although there may be more. The names were recorded in the Book of Merit, which has since been lost.