Military Honors

The military is a highly trained, well-respected organization that has deep roots in tradition and honor. Not only are their commands, hierarchy and methods full of tradition, but so too are their celebrations and commemoration ceremonies. In this article, we will explain some of the traditions behind honored military celebrations.

Marine Corps Balls

Each year on November 10th, the Marine Corps hosts a ball in commemoration of the organizations birthday. Formally established in 1925, the Marine Corps Birthday Ball includes a series of speeches and traditions before marines and guests start the party.

One of the time-honored conventions that has been part of this military honor (a tradition started in 1952 by Lemuel Sheperd Jr.) is the cake ceremony in which the first slice of cake goes to the oldest Marine in attendance while the second goes to the youngest. Another tradition is the reading of Lejeunes Birthday message, a speech known as “Marine Corps Order 47,” in which Lejeune summarizes the tradition, history, honor and overall mission of the Marine Corps.

Military Retirement Ceremonies

After loyally serving the military for a number of years, members of the military are likely to think about retiring. Regardless of which branch of the military a member is from, that branch will conduct a formal retirement ceremony in which a the retiree receives a retirement decoration, certificates and any other awards granted at the request of his superiors.

In some cases, namely those that are planned far in advance, the spouse of the retiree can request that the retiree receive a flag that has been flown over the Capitol, as well as a letter from the President. Similarly, a formal parade may also be planned.

Military Awards and Honors: The Purple Heart

The Purple Heart is an individual military decoration that is different from other military honors, awards and decorations. While most military decorations are given as a result of recommendations, the Purple Heart is given to those who meet certain criteria. To be awarded the Purple Heart, a member of the military must have been wounded, killed or died after being wounded after April 5,1817 due to:

  • fighting against a U.S. enemy
  • fighting against a foreign force in a country in which the United Stats is or has been engaged in battle
  • having served time as a prisoner of war.
  • While there are a series of other possible criteria, the above cover the major points.

George Washington is the originator of the Purple Heart, which was known back then as the Badge of Military Merit. When Washington first created the concept, he intended to award this military honor to those in the lower ranks of the military, something unheard of at the time.

While the badge was a heart made out of purple cloth or silk and lace, todays Purple Heart is a 3/8 inches wide heart enclosed in a gold border. On the face of the heart is a profile of George Washington with a Coat of Arms above his head, and, on the back, is an inscription that reads, “For Military Merit.” This medal hangs from a purple ribbon with white trim.

The Purge of 1917 and Mary Edwards Walker

A commission convened in 1916 to review all of the Medals of Honor awarded because it was believed that many people gained the medals through questionable ways. A report released by the commission in 1917 resulted in the revocation of medals to 911 people. Since then, only 6 of the revoked medals have been restored.

Mary Edwards Walker was the only female ever awarded the Medal of Honor. She was a surgeon during the Civil War and actually helped the injured on both sides. Although her medal was revoked during the Purge of 1917, it was eventually reinstated when Jimmy Carter signed a bill to that effect in 1977.