Medal of Honor

highest award for valor by an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States

The Medal of Honor (MOH) is the United States Armed Forces' highest military decoration and is awarded to recognize American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians and coast guardsmen who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor.

The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest award for military valor in action. And while over 150 years have passed since its inception, the meaning behind the Medal has never tarnished. ~ Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Etched within are the very values that each Recipient displayed in the moments that mattered—bravery, courage, sacrifice, integrity. A deep love of country and a desire to always do what is right. ~ Congressional Medal of Honor Society
A distinguished award presented only to the deserving, the Medal tells a story of its own. ~ Congressional Medal of Honor Society
When President Reagan placed the Congressional Medal of Honor around my neck, it all came racing back to me. The blood flooding the floor of the helicopter and gushing out of the doors as we banked and ran from that Cambodian jungle. The sights and sounds of my six hours in hell. The agony of the wounded and dying kept repetitively flashing through my mind while I watched the honor guard and heard the president, my commander-in-chief, read the details of the award. I was not ashamed of the tears that blinded my eyes. ~ Roy Benavidez
I have been asked if the Medal of Honor helped me advance throughout my career. When U.S. Army centralized selection boards meet to consider a soldier's qualifications for schools, commands, and promotion, awards and decorations are certainly considered. My philosophy has been straightforward- I paid little attention to where my officers went to college or what awards they have received in the past. Instead, I focused on what they could do today, tomorrow, and the next day in leading their soldiers and enhancing unit readiness. I am convinced that my superiors have, for the most part, exercised a similar outlook. ~ Robert F. Foley
I am not a hero. I am just a soldier. ~ Salvatore Giunta
I accept the Medal of Honor not for myself, but because it provides a forum for talking about my brothers and the job they are doing, and the sacrifices they've made. Those men and women who do the fighting- too often, they don't get to talk. I want their voices to be heard. ~ Salvatore Giunta
Then Jeff recognized General Blunt. Dumbfounded, he wondered what this was all about. In a bass voice sonorous as a bell, Blunt began reading from the document in his hand: "...for gallantry beyond the call of duty... distinguished themselves conspicuously at the risk of life... voluntarily assisted a battery that was hard pressed, although it was their first experience with artillery and they had already participated intrepidly in the infantry charge... the Medal of Honor, presented in the name of Congress." ~ Harold Keith
When you have the Medal of Honor, all actions- good, bad, true, or false- are magnified, and an undue amount of significance is attached to each. My every move- real or imagined- became front-page news. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but not much. ~ Franklin D. Miller


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  • When President Reagan placed the Congressional Medal of Honor around my neck, it all came racing back to me. The blood flooding the floor of the helicopter and gushing out of the doors as we banked and ran from that Cambodian jungle. The sights and sounds of my six hours in hell. The agony of the wounded and dying kept repetitively flashing through my mind while I watched the honor guard and heard the president, my commander-in-chief, read the details of the award. I was not ashamed of the tears that blinded my eyes.
    • Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, U.S. Army, Retired, with John R. Craig, Medal of Honor: A Vietnam Warrior's Story (1995), hardcover, p. xv
  • When I was a young man in the 1950s, right after World War II, there was a special category of hero everyone in America recognized: the men who wore the distinctive ribbon and star of the Medal of Honor. In those years when the legacy of war and sacrifice, bravery and humility was a touchstone in every community, the very mention of the Medal of Honor was part of the secular liturgy, an ideal to be honored and always remembered.
    • Tom Brokaw, "A Special Category of Hero", Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty (2003), by Peter Collier (text) & Nick Del Calzo (photographs), New York: Artisan, October 2006 second edition, p. x
  • I have learned from the MOH recipients invaluable and common lessons. They have an enduring humility about their heroic acts, almost always saying, "I'd rather talk about my buddy who didn't come back." They represent the fundamental fabric of America ethnically, geographically, and economically. They come in all sizes. My friend Jack Jacobs, a Vietnam-era MOH recipient, is a bantamweight. The late Joe Foss looked as if he could be a middle linebacker until the day he died in his mid-eighties. Bob Bush lost an eye on Okinawa, but he sees reality twice as well as anyone I know.
    Over the years I've been privileged to attend any number of big deals, from presidential summits to state dinners to royal weddings, World Series, Super Bowls, and Broadway openings, but nothing means as much to me as the time I've spent with the Medal of Honor recipients, many of whom you will read about in this book. They always make me laugh, make me cry, and, most of all, make me proud that we're fellow citizens.
    • Tom Brokaw, "A Special Category of Hero", Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty (2003), by Peter Collier (text) & Nick Del Calzo (photographs), New York: Artisan, October 2006 second edition, p. xi
  • I don't remember much about the incident and I definitely don't remember what I was thinking about in the moment, but, again, that's the amazing thing about people: You never know how you're going to step up, or when.
    • Kyle Carpenter, You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For (2019), co-written with Don Yeager, New York: William Morrow, hardcover, p. 304
  • Whereas the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the president, in the name of the congress, to members of the armed forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty ... Whereas public awareness of the importance of the Medal of Honor has declined in recent years; and Whereas the designation of National Medal of Honor Day will focus the efforts of national, State, and local organizations striving to foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients."
    • 101st United States Congress, Public Law 101-564, signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on 15 November 1990, establishing Medal of Honor Day for every 25 March starting in 1991.
  • The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest award for military valor in action. And while over 150 years have passed since its inception, the meaning behind the Medal has never tarnished. Etched within are the very values that each Recipient displayed in the moments that mattered—bravery, courage, sacrifice, integrity. A deep love of country and a desire to always do what is right.
    A distinguished award presented only to the deserving, the Medal tells a story of its own.
  • I have been asked if the Medal of Honor helped me advance throughout my career. When U.S. Army centralized selection boards meet to consider a soldier's qualifications for schools, commands, and promotion, awards and decorations are certainly considered. My philosophy has been straightforward- I paid little attention to where my officers went to college or what awards they have received in the past. Instead, I focused on what they could do today, tomorrow, and the next day in leading their soldiers and enhancing unit readiness. I am convinced that my superiors have, for the most part, exercised a similar outlook.
    • Lieutenant General Robert F. Foley, U.S. Army, Retired, Standing Tall: Leadership Lessons in the Life of a Soldier (2022), Philadelphia, Casemate, hardcover, p. 165
  • On the other hand, there have been incidents in the past where Medal of Honor recipients expected special treatment. On one occasion, I received a phone call from the Fort Benning garrison commander requesting my advice about a newly arrived Medal of Honor recipient who complained that he was not being saluted as he wore his award around post and wanted to know when his welcome parade would be scheduled. I took very little time to straighten this soldier out. I see no evidence of expectations from today's recipients, but I have witnessed disdain from a few leaders with preconceived notions about the self-aggrandizing nature of Medal of Honor recipients. For example, one time a general officer and senior rater of my officer efficiency report said to me, "The blue ribbon you wear is an albatross around your neck." I am convinced that I have earned respect from others not due to past awards but because of who I am and the leadership attributes I possess that can help accomplish the mission and make a difference in leading soldiers.
    • Lieutenant General Robert F. Foley, U.S. Army, Retired, Standing Tall: Leadership Lessons in the Life of a Soldier (2022), Philadelphia, Casemate, hardcover, p. 165
  • There were more bullets in the air than stars in the sky. A wall of bullets at every one at the same time with one crack and then a million other cracks afterwards. They're above you, in front of you, behind you, below you. They're hitting in the dirt early. They're going over your head. Just all over the place. They were close— as close as I've ever seen.
    • Salvatore Giunta, remarks on the 25 October 2007 battle that resulted in Giunta being awarded the Medal of Honor three years later. As quoted by Tim Hetherington in the Vanity Fair article "Medal of Honor Winner Salvatore Giunta on Bravery, Brotherhood, and the Korengal", published 11 November 2010. [1]
  • The president clasps the medal around my neck, and I can feel the weight of it now. We embrace for a moment- the president and me. Blinking back tears, I turn to face the audience and applause fills the room. But I know it's not for me alone. I know I am part of something bigger, something vast and still incomprehensible. I look at my mom and dad. I look at Brennan's parents, and I look at Mendoza's. And I try to communicate to Brennan and Mendoza wordlessly: This is for you... and for everyone who has fought and died. For everyone who has made the ultimate sacrifice. I am not a hero. I am just a soldier.
    • Salvatore Giunta, Living With Honor (2012), New York: Simon & Schuster, hardcover, p. 3-4
  • I think about my daughter often when I'm out traveling around, giving speeches, shaking hands, talking about my friends in the military. I want her to be proud of me, and to know that what I'm doing is important. I want her to know that I accept the Medal of Honor not for myself, but because it provides a forum for talking about my brothers and the job they are doing, and the sacrifices they've made. Those men and women who do the fighting- too often, they don't get to talk. I want their voices to be heard.
    • Salvatore Giunta, Living With Honor (2012), New York: Simon & Schuster, hardcover, p. 291
  • The day before the army left Rhea's Mills, Jeff was surprised to hear his name called while the company was lined up at a morning inspection. Noah's name was called too. Obediently each took two steps forward and saluted. With a measured stamping of feet on the drill ground, half a dozen officers approached. Out of the corner of one eye, Jeff spied Clardy among them. Recoiling, he felt his insides tighten. What had he done now? The tramping stopped. A big man with black whiskers and two curved rows of brass buttons on the front of his blue dress coat, ambled up to Jeff and Noah. He was short and heavyset, with a thick neck and sloping shoulders. He walked with a roll, swaying his hips and planting his feet carefully, like a sea captain. In one hairy hand he carried a piece of paper. Everybody saluted. Then Jeff recognized General Blunt. Dumbfounded, he wondered what this was all about. In a bass voice sonorous as a bell, Blunt began reading from the document in his hand: "...for gallantry beyond the call of duty... distinguished themselves conspicuously at the risk of life... voluntarily assisted a battery that was hard pressed, although it was their first experience with artillery and they had already participated intrepidly in the infantry charge... the Medal of Honor, presented in the name of Congress."
    • Harold Keith, Rifles for Watie (1957), New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, hardcover, p. 141-142
  • Then the general stepped so close that Jeff could smell the pomade on his thick black hair. Leaning forward, he passed a ribbon around Jeff's neck and underneath his collar. Suspended from the ribbon was a tiny piece of red, white and blue fabric. And dangling from the fabric was a shiny bronze star and eagle that flashed more brilliantly in the sunshine than even the general's gold shoulder bars. Noah got one, too. Just as Jeff began to realize that he and Noah were being decorated, the general was shaking hands stiffly with each of them. Jeff couldn't hide the embarrassment and the unbelief in his face. Somebody had made a mistake. He hadn't done anything in the battle but follow Noah. If this was the way the army handed out decorations, then something was wrong with the system. "Shoot, General," Jeff blurted in protest, "all we did was load her and swab her."
    • Harold Keith, Rifles for Watie (1957), New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, hardcover, p. 142
  • Because the Medal of Honor is presented “in the name of the Congress of the United States,” it is frequently called the Congressional Medal of Honor. The terms are used interchangeably, but regardless of designation, the Medal of Honor remains the most prestigious and treasured of all decorations in the armed services.
  • The Medal of Honor is the most revered and highest award for military valor in action. Since the decoration’s inception in 1861, for the Navy, the medal has been bestowed in the name of Congress 3,530 times, including on one woman and on 19 individuals who have received multiple awards. The standards to award the medal have evolved over time. On July 25, 1963, Congress approved guidelines and established the current criteria to recognize “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one’s life above and beyond the call of duty.” Secretary of War Edwin Stanton first bestowed the medal on the surviving members of a Union Army scouting detachment known as Andrews’ Raiders on March 25, 1863. Pvt. Jacob Parrott holds the distinction of being the medal’s initial recipient. Though each honoree possesses a unique story and deserves the gratitude of the nation, three recipients illustrate that heroism can overcome prejudice.
  • These medal winners were not blessed with an ethereal gift that somehow rendered them fearless. To the contrary, they were as petrified as anyone else would be. Who wouldn't be afraid when outnumbered, outgunned, and alone? Who wouldn't tremble when a simple mistake will cost not only your life but the lives of many others? These heroes did not simply confront certain death. They got up in its face, smelled its heat, and challenged it to take them. One common trait that everyone in this collection had was an almost casual indifference to personal suffering. They each had responsibilities that trumped their almost certain demise, but they moved ahead nonetheless. Observe the actions of these Medal of Honor winners and you will see that first in their minds was the well-being of their fellows. They were willing to die to save lives. They each wanted to help more than they cared about living.
    • Thomas P. McCarthy (editor), The Greatest Medal of Honor Stories Ever Told (2018), Guilford: Lyons Publishing, paperback, p. vi
  • In all the wars since the first medal was presented in 1861, there have been just a few more than 3,500 acts deemed worthy of this, the most prestigious medal the United States presents to its soldiers- and half that number of medals were bestowed during the Civil War. The winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor are in a rare and stratospheric atmosphere, as well they should be. Most Medal of Honor winners received theirs posthumously- a darkly simple way to gauge what it took to get one. The actions of these extraordinary heroes were, as Abraham Lincoln noted, "the last full measure of devotion."
    • Thomas P. McCarthy (editor), The Greatest Medal of Honor Stories Ever Told (2018), Guilford: Lyons Publishing, paperback, p. vi
  • The men- and one woman to win a Congressional Medal of Honor- who performed such unimaginable acts of bravery had the ability to master fear so they could face the most horrible of deaths, and still move forward. What made them remarkable was that they controlled the fear. They acted as if it didn't matter that they would be suddenly and violently dispatched to Kingdom Come in an instant if things did not work out properly- and things rarely work out properly on the battlefield. Make a mistake in combat and it will be your last.
    These Medal winners- all medal winners- confronted their fears and moved into the fray. These remarkable soldiers had in common an unshakeable nonchalance about their responsibilities and the heavy consequences they might face. They did not dwell on such vagaries, though. Uncommon valor is an indelible trait that staves off sway from the bloody battlefields of the Civil War through the lonely mountains of Afghanistan. That was their duty. The lives of others meant more to them than their own.
    • Thomas P. McCarthy (editor), The Greatest Medal of Honor Stories Ever Told (2018), Guilford: Lyons Publishing, paperback, p. vii
  • But courage was not the purview of only the poor. Teddy Roosevelt, a man born of wealth, loved his country too. And he was willing to put his own privileged life on the line, just like the other heroes in this collection. He wrote of his men, two Rough Riders about to take San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War: "Capron was going over his plans for the fight when we should meet the Spaniards on the morrow, Fish occasionally asking a question. They were both filled with eager longing to show their mettle, and both were rightly confident that if they lived they would win honorable renown and would rise high in their chosen profession. Within twelve hours they were both dead." Roosevelt knew what he was up against, and kept going. That's what every Medal of Honor winner has done: They faced death, and they rode on.
    • Thomas P. McCarthy (editor), The Greatest Medal of Honor Stories Ever Told (2018), Guilford: Lyons Publishing, paperback, p. ix
  • It seemed like the entire world knew I'd come out of Womack's Nut Ward, and as a result I was accused of everything from shoplifting to armed robbery to murder. Nobody took my word for anything. Any derogatory stories that could be old about me were given maximum dissemination. When you have the Medal of Honor, all actions- good, bad, true, or false- are magnified, and an undue amount of significance is attached to each. My every move- real or imagined- became front-page news. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but not much.
    • Franklin D. Miller, Reflections of a Warrior (1991), co-written with Elwood J.C. Kureth, Novato: Presidio Press, hardcover, p. 198
  • On February 4 an invitation to the White House interrupted this schedule. My family and I were ushered into President Roosevelt's office. I had known the President, who with his charm made us feel completely at ease. With my wife and son looking on he read a citation and placed the Medal of Honor around my neck.
    • Alexander Vandegrift, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964), New York: W.W. Norton & Company, first edition, hardcover, p. 212
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