The Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that can be awarded by the United States government. It’s also the most prestigious with variants for Army, Navy, and Air Force. and it isn’t even 200 years old. The Medal of Honor dates back to the Civil War, and was formally called for by President Abraham Lincoln. It follows a December 1861 provision which created the U.S. Navy Medal of Valor, the Medal of Honor’s basis. 

In a measure signed into law on July 12, 1862, President Lincoln called for an award that would be presented “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection.” In 1863, the Medal of Honor became a permanent military decoration. At that point it became available to be awarded to members of all branches of the U.S. military, even commissioned officers. 

So what earns a service member the Medal of Honor? The first recipients of the Army Medal of Honor were 6 soldiers who served during the Civil War. The Union soldiers participated in an 1862 raid which destroyed a series of bridges and railroad tracks that connected Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. This coordinated and risky effort helped to put a significant strain on the Confederate army. 

The Medal of Honor is reserved for the bravest and most selfless acts. Because of this, the Medal of Honor is often presented posthumously. From time to time though, there are living recipients. In 2010, Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta became the first living Medal of Honor recipient in four decades. Over the years there have been over 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients. To learn about all the Medal of Honor recipients on the National Medal of Honor Museum’s recipient database.


Posted on March 25 2021 in Blog

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