HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Mayor Carl Suraci and members of the Township Committee gathered at the municipal building Monday evening to honor dozens of true American heroes from Somerset County, those combat veterans who were wounded in battle while serving their country.

Aug. 7 marked the 235th anniversary of the Medal of Merit, the forerunner of the Purple Heart.

MOPH Somerset County Chapter 27 Commander Joe Kordzikowski and Senior Vice Commander Ted Dima were joined by more than one dozen of their fellow Purple Heart recipients, along with family and friends.

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Ceremonies were moved indoors because of inclement weather. A Purple Heart memorial is part of the township’s Garden of Honor, located at the municipal complex.

The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by General George Washington – then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army – by order from his Newburgh, NY headquarters on Aug. 7, 1782.

The Badge of Military Merit was only awarded to three Revolutionary War soldiers by Gen. George Washington himself.

The medal was revived on the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1932 by President Herbert Hoover.

Three months later, on May 28, 1932, 137 World War I veterans were conferred their Purple Hearts at Temple Hill, in New Windsor, NY, the site of Washington's headquarters and the New Windsor Cantonment, which was the final encampment of the Continental Army in the winter of 1782-1783.

Today, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor at New Windosr continues the tradition begun here in 1932, of honoring those who have earned the Purple Heart. The Hall of Honor includes an archive of messages recorded by Purple Heart recipients that recounts their war experiences and how they came to be awarded the Purple Heart, according to Dima.

Hillsborough Township in Somerset County is one of only two municipalities in New Jersey to be named a “Purple Heart City.”  The other is North Hanover in Burlington County.

Somerset is the only county in New Jersey to be given the “Purple Heart County” designation by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.