The Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress, it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The origin of this decoration goes back to the Civil War. Before that time, medals and decorations were considered to be too similar to the titles and awards given in England, and fighting for ones country was considered a duty. It soon became clear that there were those who were believed to have gone "above and beyond" this call, and on Dec. 21, 1861, the chairman of the Senate Naval Committee, Senator James W. Grimes, introduced a bill to promote the efficiency of the Navy. Navy Secretary Gideon Wells was looking for a way to inspire sailors to improve their work. This bill, approved by President Abraham Lincoln, provided for the preparation of 200 Medals of Honor "to be awarded upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamen-like qualities during the present war." Thus, the Medal of Honor was created.
A total of 3,429 Medals have been authorized to date, with Army men receiving the majority of these high decorations. As of October 1999, there are 150 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
TYPES OF MEDALS
The Navy medal was the first to be struck, followed quickly by the Army version of this award. There are three different types of Medals of Honor today: the original simple star shape established in 1861 which the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have retained; a wreath version designed in 1904 for the Army; and an altered wreath version for the Air Force, designed in 1963 and adopted in 1965.
(Courtesy Congressional Medal of Honor Society)