August 7, 2020
Day 220 of 366
August 7th is the 220th day of the year. It is Youth Day in Kiribati, a state comprised of 32 atolls and one raised coral island in the central Pacific.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Lighthouse Day, National Raspberries N’ Cream Day, International Beer Day, and National Water Balloon Day. The last two are typically observed on the first Friday in August.
Historical items of note:
- In 1786, the first federal Indian Reservation was created by the United States.
- In 1858, the first Australian rules football match was played between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College.
- In 1909, Alice Huyler Ramsey and three friends became the first women to complete a transcontinental automobile trip, taking 59 days to travel from New York, New York to San Francisco, California.
- In 1928, author and academic Betsy Byars was born.
- In 1942, humorist, novelist, short story writer, and radio host Garrison Keillor was born.
- In 1944, IBM dedicated the first program-controlled calculator. It was called the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, but is better known as the Harvard Mark I.
- Also in 1944, actor John Glover was born.
- In 1955, actor, comedian and voice actor Wayne Knight was born.
- In 1960, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter David Duchovny was born.
- In 1962, Canadian-born American pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey was awarded the United States President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service for her refusal to authorize thalidomide, a drug known to cause severe birth defects.
- In 1975, actress Charlize Theron was born.
- In 1978, actor Cirroc Lofton was born.
- In 1987, Lynne Cox became the first person to swim from the United States to the Soviet Union, crossing the Bering Strait from Little Diomede Island in Alaska to Big Diomede in the Soviet Union.
- In 1997, Garth Brooks performed a free live concert in New York City’s Central Park. It was later released as Garth: Live from Central Park.
In 1782, President George Washington ordered the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle.
Designed by Washington in the form of a purple heart, it was intended as a military order for soldiers who exhibited, “not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way.” The award was only given to non-commissioned officers and privates. It is largely considered the first United States military decoration, and the second oldest in the world after the Cross of St. George.
After the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse although it was never officially abolished. In fact, the award of the badge was not proposed again officially until after World War I. In 1932, the United States War Department authorized the new Purple Heart Medal for soldiers who had previously received either a Wound Chevron or the Army Wound Ribbon. The Purple Heart became the official “successor decoration” to the Badge of Military Merit.
The Purple Heart was designed by Elizabeth Will, an Army heraldic specialist in the Office of the Quartermaster General. In general, the medal is awarded to any servicemember who is wounded or killed while in an official capacity with the Armed Forces against enemy combatants.
It is estimated that 321,000 awards were issued for actions in World War I. In World War II, over one million medals were awarded.
In honor of those awarded and the creation of the medal, August 7th is known as Purple Heart Day.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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