By Debbie Gregory.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
On December 9, 1861, Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced Senate Bill No. 82 to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor.” Less than two weeks later, the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals be produced “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” Similar bills were introduced and passed to honor service members from other branches.
Sadly, the award is often bestowed posthumously to fallen heroes in recognition for their extraordinary acts of valor. Living Medal of Honor recipients are given the following special privileges and special benefits:
- Special Medal of Honor pension of $1,303.51 per month above and beyond any military pensions or other benefits for which they may be eligible, including cost-of-living increases
- Special entitlements to Space A air transportation (travel on aircraft under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Defense when excess capability allows)
- Enlisted recipients are entitled to a supplemental uniform allowance
- Commissary and exchange privileges (includes eligible dependents)
- Admission to U.S. military academies, without nomination and quota requirements, for qualified children of recipients
- A 10 percent increase in retired pay
- Medal of Honor Flag
- Permission to wear the uniform any time, as long as the standard restrictions are observed
- Medal of Honor automobile license plates in states where they are available
- Interment at Arlington National Cemetery if not otherwise eligible
One footnote: Medal of Honor recipients are just that, recipients. They are not winners, because they didn’t win their medals, they earned them.