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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Creation of the Medal of Honor

Today's History Lesson

It is oft not enough to say such-'n'-such happened on this day in history for its impact to be truly felt. Such is the event of today surrounding the Medal of Honor. But, first you need to ask yourself if you truly KNOW the who, what, when, where, why and how behind this distinctive military honor. To understand what led to its creationthe acts, the deeds, the emotion, the sacrificetakes stepping back in time, back to the American Civil War for there was indeed Honor Before the Medal.

This Day in History: July 12, 1862


Connecting the past to the present…
“I am passionately interested in understanding how my country works. And if you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.”

—Ken Burns (1953–Present)
War, any war, renders horrific visions but one that pits brother against brother, father against son is almost to the point of being unfathomable. Yet, that is exactly what happened from 1861 - 1865. Gallantry in action, courage under fire without regard to personal safety, putting one's own life on the line was not uncommon. This was not the first war nor will it be the last but it will be the one long remembered which led to the determination of what kind of nation the United States of America would be.

 Yorktown, Va. 13-inch seacoast mortars of Federal Battery No. 4
with officers of 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, May 1862. 

There were no military awards or medals at the beginning of the Civil War, except for the Certificate of Merit which was authorized on March 3, 1847 and awarded after the outbreak of the Mexican-American War. The provision for a Medal of Honor had already been approved in December, 1861 for the creation of the US Navy "Medal of Valor". This medal was the basis of the Army "Medal of Honor"  created by Congress in July 1862.


1862–1895 Army version
US Medal Of Honor - 1862

President Lincoln approves the legislation authorizing the preparation of 2,000 Medals of Honor to "be presented, in the name of the Congress, to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities." Already 88 soldiers have performed heroic actions that will be ultimately awarded Medals of Honor. Source: CMOHS.org

1862 to Present

The Navy medal was the first to be struck, followed quickly by the Army version of this award. There are three different types of Medals of Honor today as seen directly below: the original simple star shape established in 1861 which the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have retained; a wreath version designed in 1904 for the Army; and an altered wreath version for the Air Force, designed in 1963 and adopted in 1965.
Source: CMOHS.org
The 3 Present Day Variations of the Medal Of Honor

from left to right, the Army, Air Force, Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard
 The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes him- or herself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his [or her] life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously. Source: Third Infantry Division Medal of Honor Recipients
So, now can you identify the who, what, when, where, why and how behind the creation of the first Medal of Honor? In summary...

Who: President Abraham Lincoln
What: Army Medal of Honor
When: July 12, 1862 during the American Civil War
Where: United States Congress
Why: As a measure of honor during wartime “to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection”
How: Signed into law in the name of Congress

In 1863, the Medal of Honor was made a permanent military decoration available to all members, including commissioned officers, of the U.S. military. It is conferred upon those who have distinguished themselves in actual combat at risk of life beyond the call of duty. Since its creation, during the Civil War, more than 3,400 men and one woman have received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in U.S. military conflict.