First issued in 2003, the Purple Heart stamp features the medal that the Military Order of the Purple Heart says is “the oldest military decoration in the world.” The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. military wounded or killed in action.
On Aug. 7, 1782, General George Washington issued an order that established a badge of distinction for meritorious action. First known as the Badge of Military Merit, the award was distinctive because it was available to the lower ranks at a time when only officers were eligible for decoration in European armies. “The road to glory in a patriot army is thus open to all,” Washington wrote.
The decoration was discontinued after the Revolutionary War. But the government announced its reinstatement on Feb. 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth.
The stamp features a photograph by Ira Wexler of a Purple Heart awarded to James Loftus Fowler of Alexandria, Virginia. Fowler, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines, received his Purple Heart in 1968 following action in Vietnam.