Medal of Honor

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The Congressional Medal of Honour

The Medal of Honour is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is given to 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". Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously. Members of all branches of the U.S. military are eligible to receive the medal, and each service has a unique design with the exception of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which both use the Navy's medal. The Medal of Honour is often presented personally to the recipient or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin, by the President of the United States. Due to its high status, the medal has special protection under U.S. law. The Medal of Honour is one of two military neck order awards issued by the United States Armed Forces, but is the sole neck order awarded to its members. The other is the Commander's Degree of the Legion of Merit and is only authorized for issue to foreign dignitaries comparable to a US military chief of staff. While American service members are eligible for the Legion of Merit, they are awarded the lowest degree, "Legionnaire", which is a standard suspended medal. The medal is frequently, albeit incorrectly, called the Congressional Medal of Honour, stemming from its award by the Department of Defence in the name of Congress. The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by American soldiers was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782, when he created the Badge of Military Merit, designed to recognize any singularly meritorious action. This decoration is America's first combat award and the second oldest American military decoration of any type, after the Fidelity Medallion. Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U.S. armed forces had been established. In 1847, after the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, a Certificate of Merit was established for soldiers who distinguished themselves in action. The certificate was later granted medal status as the Certificate of Merit Medal. Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valour was proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes to Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the United States Army. Scott did not approve the proposal, but the medal did come into use in the Navy. Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valour, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honour, as the Navy version also came to be called to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection. The Medal of Honour has evolved in appearance since its creation in 1862. The present Army medal consists of a gold star surrounded by a wreath, topped by an eagle on a bar inscribed with the word "Valour." The medal is attached by a hook to a light blue moiré. There is a version of the medal for each branch of the U.S. armed forces: the Army, Navy and Air Force. Since the U.S. Marine Corps is administratively a part of the Department of the Navy, Marines receive the Navy medal. Before 1965, when the U.S. Air Force design was...
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