The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of Congress to US military personnel only. There are three versions of the medal, one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force. Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version.
There have been 3,468 Medals of Honor awarded to the nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen since the decoration’s creation in 1861. There were no military awards or medals in use at the beginning of the American Civil War(1861–1865). As the only award available during this conflict, almost half of all Medals of Honor presented to date were awarded for actions in the four years of the Civil War.
The Medal of Honor is usually presented by the President at the White House in a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the American people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin. In 1990, Congress designated March 25 annually as “National Medal of Honor Day”. Due to its prestige and status, the Medal of Honor is afforded special protection under U.S. law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture, which includes any associated ribbon or badge.
The medal was established during the civil war to give recognition to men who distinguished themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity” in combat with an enemy of the United States.