It was on this day in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln approved 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.” The Medal of Honor had been initiated the previous year as an award given by the U.S. Navy. Today it is the highest award given to U.S. military personnel in the line of duty.
Since then, more than 3,400 people have received this medal. Some have been dubious, such as the soldiers who were awarded the medals for their actions in the tragic 1890 “Wounded Knee” massacre. But, in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, the medals have taken on new significance and enhanced value. Recipients almost have to die to get one. These aren’t perfect attendance awards! In an ideal world, no such awards would be given because war wouldn’t occur. But alas, this isn’t a utopian universe. Regardless this is my personal salute to all MOH recipients and all military personnel.