Medal History & Protocol

The Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States”.

US Medal of Honor - photos from wikipedia.orgThere are 3 variations of the Medal of Honor: Army, Navy, and Air Force (the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard both use the Navy version). The Medal of Honor is the only neck order ribbon awarded to members of the U.S. military. A corresponding light blue ribbon with five white stars in the shape of an “M”, is worn for situations other than full dress uniform. This ribbon is placed alone above the center of the other ribbons.

The Medal of Honor is usually personally presented by the President of the United States to the recipient or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin.

The medal is frequently, and incorrectly, referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor, stemming from its award by the Department of Defense “in the name of Congress.”

The wearer of this medal is held in the highest regard and it is customary for all ranks to salute a recipient, regardless of the recipient’s rank. Additionally, wearers of the Medal of Honor are always saluted before others.

Some of the special privileges and courtesies afforded Medal of Honor recipients:

  • Each recipient receives a monthly pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • A special travel ID card entitles recipients who are not active duty or retirees to space-available military air transportation.
  • Unlike other military personnel, Medal of Honor recipients may wear their uniforms at any time or place they choose.
  • All Medal of Honor recipients receive invitations to attend Presidential inaugurations and accompanying festivities.

Since 1861, when the decoration was created, 3,467 medals have been awarded, 620 of those having been awarded posthumously.

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