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Medal of Honor

The nation’s highest military award for valor is the Medal of Honor, presented by the president in Congress’ name. By law, only U.S. service members who distinguish themselves “through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” can receive the medal. Click below to learn more about the three versions of the medal.

Army Medal of Honor (greyscale)Army Medal of Honor

Army

Navy Medal of Honor (greyscale)Navy Medal of Honor

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Air Force Medal of Honor (greyscale)Air Force Medal of Honor

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Of the millions who have served the nation, more than 3,500 men and one woman have received its highest award for valor. Medal of Honor Monday highlights a different service member from this elite group each week.

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Medal of Honor Monday: Army Pfc. Floyd Lindstrom

Army Pfc. Floyd Lindstrom demonstrated extreme bravery under a hail of machine-gun fire and against overwhelming odds during a World War II battle in Italy — valor that earned him the Medal of Honor. 

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Medal of Honor Monday: Marine Corps Cpl. Lee H. Phillips

Marine Corps Cpl. Lee H. Phillips earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a vicious fight in the Korean War for which he emerged victorious — only to die a few weeks later. 

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Medal of Honor Monday: Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams

Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams will have his Silver Star Medal upgraded to the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony this week for his heroic actions during a firefight in Afghanistan.

Hall of Heroes

Medal of Honor recipients are inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes following the official White House ceremony.

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Service Crosses

The second-highest recognition for valor, the Service Crosses honor service members’ extraordinary acts of heroism. Learn about the three variations: the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross.

Distinguished Service Cross (greyscale)Distinguished Service Cross

Army

Navy Cross (greyscale)Navy Cross

Navy

Air Force Cross (greyscale)Air Force Cross

Air Force

Meet some of the heroes who have received the second-highest military recognition for valor.

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A Pearl Harbor Hero

When the USS West Virginia was struck in Pearl Harbor, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Doris "Dorie" Miller took control of a .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun and started firing, despite having no training on the weapon.

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The Four Chaplains

Four Army chaplains committed the ultimate act of selflessness and courage on Feb. 3, 1943, on a ship in the North Atlantic — an act for which they received the Distinguished Service Cross.

3 Minutes to Change the World

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez knew the situation on the ground would be dire if he died. He and his team of 30 Army Special Forces members and Afghan National Army commandos were surrounded by enemy fighters in a Taliban-sympathetic village in Herat Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 5, 2009.As the combat controller, Gutierrez was the only qualified radio operator

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Silver Star

The Silver Star Medal originated as the “Citation Star,” an Army decoration established on July 9, 1918. The Citation Star was a small (3/16” diameter) silver star that could be worn on the ribbon of any Army campaign decoration.

The decoration was replaced in 1932 with the Silver Star Medal, which was designed with a gilt bronze finish, with the original silver Citation Star placed in the middle of a new, larger star. The larger star represents military service, and the laurel wreath encircling its center signifies achievement.

The ribbon is based on the colors of the American flag, with a center stripe of red flanked by stripes of white, which are flanked by blue bands with borders of white edged in blue.

Silver Star Medal

Hear the stories of some of the courageous recipients of the military’s third-highest award for valor.

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The Pilot Behind the 'Pardo Push'

The legendary pilot behind a daring and lifesaving maneuver during the Vietnam War shares his story.

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Through a Firefight, Continuous Courage

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas continuously maneuvered through heavy fire to clear paths for his teammates during a 10-hour firefight with ISIS forces.

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Nurses on the Great War's Front Lines

Jane Rignel, Linnie Leckrone and Irene Robar almost certainly didn't know they were the first female Silver Star recipients. For decades, the rest of the world didn't know, either. Four World War II Army nurses were considered the first to have this honor.  But Rignel, Leckrone and Robar all received the Citation Star — the Silver Star's predecessor — for their efforts as

Did You Know?

Medal of Honor recipients receive multiple benefits, including a monthly pension, invitations to attend presidential inauguration activities and an increase in retired pay for enlisted recipients with at least 20 years of service.

In addition to valor awards, the military also issues a bronze letter “V” — called a “valor device” — that can be worn on some medals to indicate the award is specifically recognizing valorous acts.

Silhouette of Mary Walker

Mary Walker, a doctor who worked on behalf of the Union during the Civil War, is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Valor awards can be upgraded based on military reviews. In 2000, 21 Asian-American Distinguished Service Cross recipients and one Silver Star recipient from World War II had their awards upgraded to Medals of Honor.

Nominations for the Medal of Honor go through an intense review process initiated either through the potential recipient’s chain of command or by a member of Congress, and ending at the president.

Because the president gives the Medal of Honor in Congress’ name, it is sometimes known as the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society maintains a list of recipients and other information on the award.

Military tradition allows service members of all ranks to salute Medal of Honor recipients wearing the medal.

Silhouette of soldier saluting