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Medal of Honor

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We have all heard about the Medal of Honor, but how much do you really know about it. Yes it is the nation’s highest military award, but how about when it was established. Did you know that there are three different versions of the award one for the army, one for the air force, and one for the navy marines and coast guard? The history of our nation’s highest medal is deep with honor and self sacrifice.
The origin of the Medal of Honor came about during the civil war. Iowa Senator James W. Grimes proposed a medal for individual valor, and was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. It was first turned down by Winfield Scott the Commanding General of the United States Army at that time, but it was first used in the Navy. Not far there after a different wording was made and the Army’s version was signed into law on July 12, 1862. The Medal of Honor has changed appearance from the time it was signed into law until now. When it was first created the familiar blue with stars that we see today was not there, in fact it was red white and blue resembling the flag, and nation’s colors. It wasn’t until 1904 for the army and 1912 for the navy that the ribbon was changed to resemble today’s Medal of Honor. The Air Force’s version has never changed from the time that it was created in 1965, and prior to that year airmen were award the army’s version.
There are two ways a service member can be put in for the award. The first is by his or her chain of command, and the other is by nomination by a member of Congress. If the service member is nominated by a member of congress it has to be approved by a special act of congress. In either case the award is always presented by the President.
The first soldiers to be awarded the Medal of Honor earned the award for hijacking the General, a Confederate locomotive. Many of the soldiers that earned the award in the 19th century did so for actions associated with saving the flag. There are two reasons for this; the first is that during the time the flag was primary means of battlefield communication. The second reason was that there was no other award available at that time. This explains why so many were awarded during this time period. Actions that today would have gotten a silver star or a navy cross instead got a medal of honor simply because there was nothing else that could be given out. With the addition of more medals that could be award criteria was tightened after world war one and then again after world war two. After the end of world war one till world war two there were two versions of the Medal of Honor in the navy, one for actions in combat and one for non combat actions. The new version was called the Tiffany Cross and was awarded only for actions in combat. From the start of world war two the Medal of Honor was only been awarded for extreme bravery beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against an enemy, thus roughly sixty percent have been awarded posthumously.
By law the recipients are granted special privileges. Some of these are the right to have your name put on the Medal of Honor Roll which entitles that person to a special pension of 1027.00 a month. Another privilege that is granted is special entitlements to air transportation under of DOD Regulation 4515.13-R. Their children if they qualified are eligible for admission to the United States military academies without regard to the nomination and quota requirements. Although not required under any law or reg it is encouraged to render salutes to recipients of the Medal of Honor as a matter of respect and courtesy regardless of rank or status.
Up until 2006 the Medal of Honor was the only award that was protected under federal law. The act that changed that was the stolen valor act which was later replied. The department of defense awards each person with the original in person, a second medal can be given out for free marked as duplicate only if approved by that services secretary. Any misuse of the medal to include unauthorized wear can be punished by a fine of up to 100,000 and up to one year in jail. After the army changed the medal in 1903 it was then patented to protect it, and when the patent ran up they made a law making it a crime to make, wear, or distribute the medal. HLI Lordship the company the used to make the metal was fined for selling 300 fake medals in 1996, and was fine 75 dollars for each medal that was sold. From the time that the Medal of Honor was created in 1861 only 3471 have been awarded. Of which 19 persons have received the award twice, 14 have been awarded for two different actions, 5 have been awarded not only the army version but the navy version as well, and only one woman has received the award. The only female Medal of Honor recipient is Mary Edwards Walker, she was awarded her medal during the civil, and it was rescinded in 1917 because it was for non-combat awarding, but it was restored by President Carter in 1977. Starting in February 1919 the rules were changed so that a person could no longer be awarded two Medal of Honor for any single action. From the draw down in Vietnam in 1973 only ten awards have been given out, and of those ten nine have been given posthumously.
During the civil war Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton told men in the Maine 27th Volunteer Infantry Regiment any that stayed passed his enlistment would receive a Medal of Honor. The Battle of Gettysburg was near and 311 men of the unit volunteered to stay until the battle was over. In 1916 a board of five generals reviewed a list of every Medal of Honor that was every awarded. The board was to review and revoke any award that was not issued for distinguished military service. The board revoked the 311 medals from the men of the Maine 27th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the 29 soldiers that served as Abraham Lincoln's funeral guard, and six civilians to include Buffalo Bill Cody’s, which he earned as a civilian scout it was later reinstated in 1989.
There were similar decorations in the United States in the past that bared a similar name to the Medal of Honor that were awarded for different actions. The first is Cardenas Medal of Honor, which was originally considered not even an award but a decoration when it was created in 1900. When the coast guard was founded the medal was allowed to be worn on active duty coast guard uniforms. The second is the Chaplain's Medal for Heroism which was created in 1960, and has only been awarded posthumously, which is why it is not located any military award precedence charts. The third is the Southern Cross of Honor which was created in 1862 and last awarded in 1865. It originally intended to be on par with the Union Army's Medal of Honor. Even though there are no civil war vets still alive still Virginia Code section 18.2-176(b) remains in effect, which states any person that wears a southern cross of honor that is not entitled to do so will be fined no more than 500.00 dollars. The reason for this is that it is labeled as a class three misdemeanor.
To sum it all up the Medal of Honor has a long and rich history. From its origins during the civil war through the many changes it went through to the medal in its present day form. From the first six that were awarded it for highjacking a train to Salvatore Giunta who fought through a hail of bullets to save a fellow soldier. It has and always will be our nation’s highest honor and is deserving of our utmost respect.

"Medal of Honor Statistics". United States Army Center of Military History. May 2003.
Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
"Types of the Medal of Honor: 1862 To Present". Navy Medal of Honor (1913). Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Medal of Honor
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