The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration. It may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of courage. The Medal is presented to the recipient, or their next of kin, by the President of the United States in a formal ceremony.

An act of valor must have been performed while engaged in combat with an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. There have been 3,526 Medals of Honor recipients from the Civil War to the present day, including 19 double and one triple recipients.

The first Medal of Honor was issued during the American Civil War and was created on July 12, 1862, by a Joint Resolution of Congress. On March 3, 1863, Congress specified the manner in which the Medal of Honor could be awarded, and on April 14, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln approved a Navy version of the Medal of Honor. The Army version had been authorized earlier. Since its creation, the Medal of Honor has been awarded more than 3,500 times.

Who is Eligible to Receive the Medal of Honor?

Receiving Medal of Honor
(Source: @USArmy/Flickr)

The criteria for the award have changed over time. During World War II, for example, Congress broadened the criteria to include any “act or acts of heroism” as long as they were performed “in connection with military operations against an armed enemy” and were accomplished with “distinction above his comrades.”