I would venture a guess that most civilians do not know the history behind the Purple Heart Badge. I learned some interesting information from Allan's article, like the badge originated with George Washington although it was not called the Purple Heart then.
Like any good officer, General Washington understood the importance of rewarding deserving soldiers. So he would grant them commissions or promotions. In 1782, the Continental Congress ordered him to stop doing this because Congress had run out of money. Seeking new ways to honor meritorious soldiers, Washington established the Badge of Military Merit. This badge was shaped like a heart and was purple, presumably chosen as it was the traditional color of royalty. It was awarded for meritorious service, not necessarily for being wounded in combat. On August 7, 1782, at his headquarters at Newburgh, New York, General Washington wrote an official order authorizing the badge.Go read Allan's article for the rest of the story:
FrontPage magazine.com :: The Real Meaning of the Purple Heart by Allan Wall