October 04 2020 – Mike Yarbrough
It's impossible to truly repay soldiers for the sacrifices they make, try as we might. The Purple Heart, the U.S. military's oldest medal of honor, is a token of gratitude for such sacrifices. A small token, perhaps, but one that carries enormous meaning and significance.
The Purple Heart is awarded to any United States military personnel wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the U.S. Approximately 1.9 million Americans have received the Purple Heart since its inception. That's a truly staggering number, and one that connects the Purple Heart with more stories of bravery and valor than you can easily wrap your head around.
So many of our rings at Rustic and Main are made to honor our heritage and acknowledge those who have come before us, the heroes of big stories and small stories alike. We wanted to design something that paid tribute to the Purple Heart, and create a tangible link to all those who have received it.
The Military's Oldest Honor
It seems like almost everyone knows a Purple Heart recipient. The medal may have been awarded to a grandparent or great-grandparent in World War II, or to a brother or sister in Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe you have a friend, teacher, co-worker or extended family member who was injured in combat. We all do our best to honor those who make such sacrifices.
It was none other than George Washington who first established the Purple Heart when he was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1782. It was originally designed as a Military Medal of Merit, which Washington authorized his officers to issue "as appropriate," for exceptional acts of valor.
By all accounts, the original badge was only awarded a handful of times, and it fell into disuse until February 22, 1932—Washington's 200th birthday—when it was revived under the guidance of General Douglas MacArthur. Specific rules for when and how the medal should be awarded were put in place for the first time, and the medals were allowed to be bestowed retroactively, thus making it possible for soldiers killed or wounded during World War I to receive the Purple Heart.
But it was during the coming Second World War that the Purple Heart would be awarded more times than ever before or since. More than a million Americans received the honor during World War II. So great was the demand that just over 1.5 million Purple Heart medals were manufactured during the war—a sufficient number of those same medals were still being awarded well into the 21st century.
Designing a Tribute
We wanted to design a ring that paid tribute to our troops who have received the Purple Heart, in particular those who served in World War II. Anyone who wears that ring should be able to connect in a genuine way with the lives and stories of those who had served and sacrificed. The use of purpleheart wood in the ring design seemed a perfect choice, and not just because the wood shares its name with the medal.
Purpleheart trees are native to South America, and are famous for their dense heartwood, which turns quickly from brown to a rich purple color as soon as it's cut and exposed to daylight. Just like the veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal, purpleheart wood is tough stuff. It's some of the hardest and most durable wood in the world. The trees themselves are hardy and amazingly adaptable. It seems they find a way to survive in the harshest and most undesirable of conditions; something we ask our soldiers to do every single day.
Purpleheart trees are increasingly endangered by deforestation, and we take great pains to ensure that as much of our wood as possible is ethically and sustainably harvested. Purpleheart trees are survivors, and it's our intent to let them go on living, as they should, in the forests of the Amazon Basin.
We decided to use purpleheart wood as the interior for our WWII rings, but what of the exterior surface? One of the great joys of designing rings is the ability to use different materials that combine to tell a unique story. For this particular ring, there seemed no better choice than walnut wood from an M1 Garand rifle stock. The M1 was the standard small arm of the U.S. military during World War II. Of the more than 16 million Americans who served in the war, a great many of them did so with this rifle in their hands.
We were incredibly fortunate to be able to obtain some disused M1 Garand rifle stocks for use in our rings. And for the final detail to tell this story, a yellow gold offset inlay was added to evoke the image of the distinctive yellow gold border of a genuine Purple Heart medal.
Supporting Our Veterans
Designing a ring that pays tribute to our veterans is all well and good, and it's our genuine hope this ring finds its way to the hands of a great many people who share our desire to acknowledge the sacrifices those men and women made. But at the same time, this ring should do more. It should support our veterans in a real and substantial way. Through a chance (or perhaps fated) meeting with Donald McAlister from The Independence Fund, we were able to do just that.
The Independence Fund is an organization that does truly incredible things to help our wounded soldiers and their families. The focus of the organization is to empower our nation's veterans to overcome not only the physical wounds incurred in the line of duty, but the mental and emotional wounds as well. As soon as we learned a little bit about their mission, we knew the Independence Fund was a cause Rustic and Main simply had to get behind.
We're very proud to say that 5% of all proceeds from purchases of our Purple Heart WWII rings go to support the Independence Fund. It's our own small way of giving back, and we hope that by creating this ring, we've honored the lives and memories of those who have been killed or injured protecting the freedoms we hold dear. We hope it helps their stories be heard.
There are a number of ways to use purpleheart wood in a unique ring design, just for you. Check out our customizer page or send our live chat team a message to start designing your own purpleheart wood ring!