Honoring Those Who Showed Uncommon Valor
Celebrating National Medal of Honor Day
March 25, 2015 by David Khan
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that our country can bestow on someone who has fought in combat. It was first awarded on March 25, 1863, to six Union Army soldiers who were part of a daring mission to confiscate a Confederate locomotive (it is commonly referred as the “Great Locomotive Chase”). To date, there have been total of 3,493 recipients of the award, stretching from the Civil War to the combat operations in Afghanistan. And more than half of them have been posthumously awarded to the recipients' families. In 1990, Congress designated March 25 as “Medal of Honor Day” to honor those who have shown uncommon valor in combat.
To recognize this special day, we offer some of the interesting facts about the Medal of Honor and the honors and privileges bestowed upon the recipients.
- The Army, Navy and Air Force all have their own version of the Medal of Honor, and the designs have seen very few changes since their inception. And while all current versions use a blue silk ribbon bearing 13 white stars, there are a few differences:
- The Navy/Marine Corps version is an inverted star suspended by an anchor denoting the sea service.
- The Army’s version shows a helmeted Goddess of War suspended underneath a spread eagle clutching the term "Valor."
- The Air Force version is similar to the Army’s except Lady Liberty is depicted suspended beneath the Air Force's Coat of Arms.
- The Medal of Honor is one of two decorations awarded that are suspended around the neck of the recipient. The other is the Legion of Merit, which is usually awarded to individuals serving with foreign governments.
- Medal of Honor recipients are conferred special privileges and benefits by law. Some have significant monetary value while others are as a symbol of respect::
- A monthly pension from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs of more than $1,260 that is not included in their other military pension or benefits.
- A 10% increase in retired pay.
- 40 states currently offer a special license plate for recipients at little or no cost.
- The children of recipients are eligible for admission into any of the U.S. military academies regardless of quotas and without the need of a Congressional nomination.
- Eligibility for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Invitation to all future presidential inaugurations and inaugural balls.
- Another honor bestowed not out of regulation, but as a sign of respect from fellow service members, is the rendering of a salute. It is customary, regardless of the rank or status of the individual, to render a salute to a recipient—especially if the recipient is wearing the Medal of Honor at the time. It is one of the few situations were a person of junior rank may receive a salute from someone who is senior.
- More rare than being honored with the award is receiving it twice. Only nineteen men have been double recipients and since 1919. A second award can now only be awarded for a separate action.
- Only one woman has been awarded the Medal of Honor: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, who served as a surgeon during the Civil War and is one of eight civilians to receive the award. The Army removed a number of names, including Walker’s, from their Honor Roll in 1917 after Congress created a pension act for Medal of Honor recipients, as being a civilian made her ineligible. In 1977, under President Carter, her status as a Medal of Honor recipient was restored.
We salute all of those who have received this distinguished award and offer our sincere thanks for their patriotism, dedication, and service.