The first military award ever established by the US Military is the Badge of Military Merit by George Washington, who graces the front of the Purple Heart, which is considered the successor to the Badge.
Washington announced the award in 1782, not for soldiers killed or wounded, but for enlisted soldiers who showed exceptional bravery. Prior to this time, awards were considered the province of only officers. Washington understood the key to any army is the soldiers who do the fighting. Tweet this! Washington said: “The road to glory in a Patriot Army and a free country is open to all.”
This is part of the reason why the United States military has always been made up of citizen-soldiers, willing to serve and defend their country.
Interestingly, the following year, at the Newburgh Cantonment, as peace talks were dragging on in Paris (the Revolutionary War didn’t end until fall 1783), Washington had to face a potential mutiny among his officers over the lack of pay forthcoming from Congress. On 15 March 1783, as detailed in Ides of March (Time Patrol), Washington had to give a famous speech, appealing to the patriotism and fidelity of his men, to quell this action. It was only when, with shaking hands he had to put on his reading glasses to read a letter and telling the men he’d grown old in service of his country, that the mood shifted.
History. We have to learn from it or else we will repeat it. This is one of the mantras from the Time Patrol books and one of the reason I write them, trying to show history in an exciting format. For: He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the present, controls that past. Orwell. 1984.
Let us control our present!