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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.

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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 Sgt. Joe Ronnie Hooper

While most of his company was pinned down by gunfire in Vietnam, Army Sgt. Joe Ronnie Hooper led soldiers across a stream and overtook five enemy bunkers on the opposite shore. And that was just the beginning.

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Army 1st Lt. Arthur MacArthur Jr.

After his Union Army unit's flag carrier was killed in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, 1st Lt. Arthur MacArthur picked up the flag and charged at the Confederates. He was shot twice but inspired his unit and earned the Medal of Honor.

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Army Cpl. Robert Maxwell

For today's Medal of Honor Monday, we're honoring a brave recipient who passed away recently — 75 years after he jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers in World War II.

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.

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Navy Cross (greyscale)Navy Cross

Navy

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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

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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

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.

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