The Medal of Honor: What is it?
May 16th, 2012
01:08 PM ET

The Medal of Honor: What is it?

The Medal of Honor was created in 1861, based on separate bills to promote the efficiency of the Army and Navy, and bestowed on those who "distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action."

The bills were signed by President Lincoln, and the medals were designed to celebrate heroes of the Civil War, but the award survived and gained prominence after the conflict, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Since 1863, it has been awarded the bravest soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, according to the U.S. Army's website. In the name of Congress, the president awards each medal.

Awarding the actual medal can take years. What is the process of being granted the Medal of Honor?

Fewer than 100 living recipients are among us today.

The process begins right away. Often, service members involved with the act of heroism give sworn statements or include it in a written report so the individual will be recognized for his or her efforts.

Then, the formal recommendation paperwork begins. It moves up the chain of hierarchy. In some cases, this can involve thick files of sworn statements, maps and drawings by fellow service members.

Then, it has to be decided whether the actions of the individual merit the military's highest honor or something lesser like the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest medal for valor.

Because the standards for the Medal of Honor are so high, deciding whether someone deserves it can take the longest. Some have argued that the standards have changed and become too high, requiring too much to be rewarded, but top defense leaders say that the way wars are fought now is different.

During and after the Vietnam War, 247 individuals received the Medal of Honor for their actions. None was awarded for Operation Desert Storm or missions in the Balkans, Panama, Grenada or Beirut.

Here's a look at some of the recent recipients:

Soldier priest to get ultimate medal

Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha conflicted by joy, sadness

Medal of Honor recipient's valor hidden for decades

Green Beret who died saving comrades awarded Medal of Honor

Army Ranger receives Medal of Honor for Afghanistan heroics

Marine receives Medal of Honor at White House

Medal of Honor recipient gets new title: Dad 

Are you a veteran? Who was a hero in your unit, or what kind of heroic action have you witnessed? Please share in the comments below.

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Filed under: Medal of Honor • Military
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Now this is a REAL honor – not like those other awards they give to anyone who stumbles and gets a skinned knee, just because it happened in a "war zone."

    May 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Redeye Dog

      Military medals all have their place in recognizing the sacrifices of men and women who, although may have only "skinned their knee" in a "war zone," they did so knowing their step forward was one most others would not take in harms way.

      The fact is, medals serve people like you more than they serve the people whom they are awarded to.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl Jefferies

      Have YOU ever gotten a Purple Heart? Well, I know lots who have. And, it WASN'T because they "skinned their knees." How dare you?! Thousands of those who are wounded earned their awards the HARD way. All the military I've known HAVE earned their medals. By doing things you wouldn't even dream of doing...helping their fellow men.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. OtherSF.

    Hooah !

    May 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Waterstar

    Wow, must of been a great guy. Sad that it took over 40 years for the medal to be awarded though...

    May 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Keksi

    Medal of Honor is SATANIC PENTAGRAM that is given to soldiers for doing dirty work.

    They should have put One Eye on top of it to make it less obvious to uninformed public.

    May 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill R

      You want to see satanic dirty work? Look in the mirror Keksi. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:13

      May 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bartholamu

      Luke 6:27
      “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

      May 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • GenXcynic

      You probably think the Nazis "invented" the swastika too.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Me

    A video game..

    May 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nelson

    So many brave men and woman who gave their all in a country that didn't honor them. Still let's honor them not just in war but in peace. Being in the military doen't get the pay nor honor sadly as people in sports do. Many service members who died in war may not have saved someones life in order to receive this honor but in doing so they helped and honored our/my country. These people were borther's, sister's, husbands, fathers just plain people ask to do something more only a few dare to do! From My Heart "THANK YOU".

    May 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • dogfaceddragon

      WELL SAID!

      May 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NamCbtVet

    Not even the swiftboat cowards will object to this one.

    May 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • alex chapman

      TY. For your comment & service.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Daniel E. Reynolds 111

    I Recieved the soldiers medal saving a old vietnamese from drowing during monsoon season. i think the medal of honor is great but i believe when a comander puts you in for it & fellow solciers in combat a person should not lower it to the cross like my friend joseph luca of meriden who was amarine in vietnam & fighting for what he desered . he is a very proud & top hairdresser & well liked man who deserves it. someone not thier not risking thier life lowered it maybe if joe saved his life if he ever seen battle would of not changed it.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bartholamu

    George W Bush deserves one for protecting America

    May 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • alex chapman

      Was that during the Vietnam War or for being clueless that El Quida was planning to attack INSIDE the US, using hijacked planes, all as spelled out in the PDR he's photoed leafing through while sitting on the porch in Crawford in AUG. 2011 wearing his macho man cowboy boots(he hadn't gotten his cute little flight suit yet)

      May 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scarface86

      Was he photoed or photoshopped?

      May 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Daniel E. Reynolds 111

    soldiers .& joseph luca is from meriden conn. & he does hairdressing for many famous celebrities at the mohegan son.I hope he gets the medal before he dies its something he deserves.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. A service member.

    The Medal of Honor isn't an award you seek. You aren't "brave" or "heroic" because you want to be. Medal of Honor recipients are folks who found themselves in a bad situation and the odds were badly against them and odds are they died dealing with it. Those that survived did so by the grace of God and the award of the Medal of Honor is the very least the country can do to acknowledge the impossible situations that the recipients faced.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      A friend of mine who is retired military (and knows/knew many men who won TONS of medals for bravery) told me one time what his definition of a hero is....he said a hero is someone smart enough to come up with a plan during combat, just crazy or stupid enough to put it into action, and lucky enough to survive the endeavor. Now I say this not to demean our service men and women, I have the utmost respect for all of them....what I am trying to say is that most of the time when a serviceman (or woman) performs some heroic act, it isn't because they have thought "Oh I can get a medal for this!" it's because their instincts took over and they made a conscious decision to think of someone other than themselves.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    the medal of "Great service to US corporation".

    May 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    If you have to ask a question like this YOU NEED TO KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Coastie

    Should say "a coastguardman" considering only one has been awarded to a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Colin Morgan

    All due respect to SPC Sabo in earning this. Now, please take a moment out of your day to google "Rafael Peralta" USMC. This man also earned one but it was denied, quite unfairly. I will continue to yell until someone hears me...

    May 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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