Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States. It is often colloquially referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor because the President presents the award "in the name of the Congress".

The Medal of Honor has evolved in appearance since its creation in 1862. The present Army medal consists of a gold star surrounded by a wreath, topped by an eagle on a bar inscribed with the word "Valor." The medal is attached by a hook to a light blue moired silk neckband that is 1 3⁄16 inches in width and 21¾ inches in length.

On October 23, 2003, Pub.L. 107-248 was enacted, modifying 36 U.S.C. § 903, authorizing a Medal of Honor flag to be presented to recipients of the decoration.

There are two distinct means for awarding the Medal of Honor. The first and most common is nomination by a service member in the chain of command, followed by approval at each level of command. The other method is nomination by a member of Congress (generally at the request of a constituent) and approval by a special act of Congress. In either case, the Medal of Honor is presented by the President on behalf of the Congress. Although commonplace, The law authorizing the society has since been transferred to Title 36, Chapter 405 of the U.S. Code.

Awarding the medal
A year after President Abraham Lincoln signed Public Resolution 82 into law on December 21, 1861, a similar resolution for the Army was passed. Six Union soldiers who hijacked the General, a Confederate locomotive were the first recipients. Raid leader James J. Andrews, a civilian hanged as a Union spy, did not receive the medal because it was originally awarded only to enlisted men. Army officers first received them in 1891 and Naval officers in 1915. Many Medals of Honor awarded in the 19th century were associated with saving the flag, not just for patriotic reasons, but because the flag was a primary means of battlefield communication. During the Civil War, no other military award was authorized, which explains some of the less notable actions that were recognized by the Medal of Honor. The criteria for award tightened after World War I. In the post-World War II era, many eligible recipients might instead have been awarded a Silver Star, Navy Cross or similar award.
During the Civil War, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton promised a Medal of Honor to every man in the 27th Regiment, Maine Infantry who extended his enlistment beyond the agreed upon date. Many stayed four days extra, and then were discharged. Due to confusion, Stanton awarded a Medal of Honor to all 864 men in the regiment.

The U.S. Army Medal of Honor was first authorized by a joint resolution of Congress on July 12, 1862. The specific authorizing statute was 10 U.S.C. § 3741, effective January 26, 1998:
Later authorizations created similar medals for other branches of the service.
The Medal of Honor confers special privileges on its recipients, both by tradition and by law. By tradition, all other soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen—even higher-ranking officers up to the President of the United States—initiate the salute. In the event of an officer encountering an enlisted member of the military who has been awarded the Medal of Honor, officers by tradition salute not the person, but the medal itself, thus attempting to time their salute to coincide with the enlisted members'. By law, recipients have several benefits: Medal of HonorMedal of Honor Authority and privileges
Until late 2006, the Medal of Honor was the only service decoration singled out in federal law to protect it from being imitated or privately sold. The Stolen Valor Act of 2005, enacted December 20, 2006, extended some of these protections to other military awards as well.

The following United States decorations bear similar names to the Medal of Honor, but are separate awards with different criteria for issuance.
Several United States law enforcement decorations also bear the name "Medal of Honor". The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, established by Congress in 2001, "the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer", is also awarded by the President,

Cardenas Medal of Honor: decoration of the Revenue Cutter Service, merged into the United States Coast Guard
Chaplain's Medal of Honor: awarded posthumously for a single action to four recipients
Congressional Gold Medal
Congressional Space Medal of Honor: despite its name, not equal to the Medal of Honor
Presidential Medal of Freedom

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