A True Badge of Distinction

May is National Military Appreciation Month, and we’ll be celebrating the noble acts of the brave men and women who have defended our country all month long here on Stamp of Approval.

The 2012 Purple Heart with Ribbon stamp honors the sacrifices of the men and women who serve in the U.S. military. The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded or killed in action. According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, an organization for combat-wounded veterans, the medal is “the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first award made available to a common soldier.”

Established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, the badge of distinction for meritorious action—a heart made of purple cloth—was discontinued after the war. In 1932, on the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth, the decoration was reinstated and redesigned as a purple heart of metal bordered by gold, suspended from a purple and white ribbon. In the center of the medal is a profile bust of George Washington beneath his family coat of arms.

The 2012 stamp has been redesigned to emphasize the brilliant purple appearing on the medal and in its ribbon. Featuring a photograph taken by Ira Wexler of the Purple Heart medal awarded during World War II to 1st Lieutenant Arthur J. Rubin (1917-1978), designer Jennifer Arnold reworked the 2011 design by slightly enlarging the Purple Heart medal and placing it on a pure white background.

The Purple Heart with Ribbon stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp later this year. Stay tuned for information on the date and location of issuance!

Long May She Wave: Patriotic Four Flags Stamps Available Today

Today we continue our tradition of honoring the Stars and Stripes with the issuance of Four Flags. In this quartet of flag stamps, a single word appears on each individual stamp in large letters: Freedom, Liberty, Equality, and Justice.

The black typeface recalls the look of Colonial-era printing, and emphasizes the meaning these four terms held for the colonists who fought the American Revolution. Patriots and Founding Fathers often invoked these words as they struggled to envision a new, democratic nation and make their ideals for the new country a reality.

First Day of Sale Cover (click to order)

The current U.S. flag, which is depicted on the stamp, consists of 13 stripes and 50 stars. Congress passed legislation in 1818 stating that the number of stars on the flag should match the number of states in the Union. It also specified that new stars would be added to the flag on the first July 4th after a state’s admission. The current flag’s 50th star was added on July 4, 1960, after Hawai‘i became a state on August 21, 1959.

The flag’s 13 stripes represent the 13 original U.S. states. Red stripes adorn the top and bottom of the flag, resulting in a pattern of seven red stripes and six white ones.

First Day of Issue Cover (click to order)

One of the world’s most powerful and widely recognized symbols, the U.S. flag has long been a familiar sight on stamps. Previous issuances include the definitives Flag at Dusk, Flag at Night, Flag at Dawn, and Flag at Midday, all in 2008, and the five commemorative stamps in the Old Glory issuance of 2003. Old Glory depicted a wide variety of U.S. flags, including a flag that appeared on a silk bookmark in 1893 and a 19th-century carving of a woman holding a flag.

The Four Flags stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate. The stamps are available as books of 20 or rolls of 100, and beginning today they can be purchased in Post Offices or online.