What medals does the military award?

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Military award medals are awarded for different campaigns, branches, sacrifices, and service records
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Military award medals recognize sacrifice and service

The military awards medals for exceptional acts of service in all branches of the military. Some of the most common military award medals include the Purple Heart and Medal of Honor. Other medals and awards have developed out of specific conflicts or are available for a specific branch of the military.


Purple Heart Military Award Medals


The government awards Purple Heart medals to military members who are wounded by instruments of war in the hands of enemies. It is also awarded to the families of those who are killed in action or those who die of wounds received in action.


The Purple Heart is not reserved for any one branch of the military. From 1932 to 1943, the award was given only to members of the Army, but an amended order in 1943 opened the award to the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Eventually it was opened to anyone serving with the military.


Families of Purple Heart recipients are eligible to participate in special programs, such as the Ladies Auxiliary of The Military Order of the Purple Heart. Other programs and organizations seek to serve veterans with Purple Hearts or preserve the stories of those who've died.


The Medal of Honor


The Medal of Honor is another award available to members of all military branches. It was created for the Civil War, but in 1863, Congress made it a permanent award.


Service members earn the Medal of Honor through an exceptional act of bravery, at the risk of his or her life, during foreign conflict. This act is considered beyond the call of duty.


To read full-text citations for the Medal of Honor, consult the database compiled by the U.S. Army Center of Military History.


Military Award Medals for the Army


The Silver Star is for acts of bravery against enemies of the USA in the course of foreign conflicts. This medal is available to members of the Army.


The Distinguished Service Cross is another medal reserved for the Army during foreign conflicts. The act of heroism for which it's awarded is greater than for the Silver Star but lesser than for the Medal of Honor.


Other military award medals cover single acts of heroism in non-conflict situations or aerial operations, as well as records of meritorious service.


Military Award Medals for the Navy


Many medals awarded to Navy members were given for specific campaigns or conflicts. An exception is the Humanitarian Service Medal, given since 1975 to recognize hands-on participation in a humanitarian operation.


The Navy Cross was created in 1919 to recognize service both in combat and noncombat situations. In 1942, however, Congress passed an amendment to limit the Cross to acts of heroism in conflict.


Military Award Medals in Other Branches


The other military branches also offer various recognitions. For information these awards, check with the history center of the branch you're interested in.



"A Brief History--The Medal of Honor," United States Department of Defense

"History of the Medal," The Military Order of the Purple Heart

"U.S. Army Individual Decorations," Chapter 3, Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards)

25 February 1995, Americal Division Veterans Association

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