How Do You Receive a Congressional Medal of Honor?

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The process for receiving the Medal of Honor, often inaccurately referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor, is intricate. First, the individual must exhibit an extraordinary act of valor in combat. After this deed is witnessed, the recommendation for the award is passed up a chain of responsible persons culminating with the president. If the soldier, sailor or marine gains approval, the president awards the medal personally.

The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest and most prestigious award for gallantry and sacrifice in the line of fire, and it is granted only to American soldiers. The official criteria demands that the soldier must have displayed an act of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The recommendation is originally handled by the service secretary. After passing through several other bureaucratic tiers, the recommendation package must then be approved by a board vote, by both the chief of staff and service secretary, and the secretary of defense before finally reaching the president. Any one of these entities can reject or approve the application. Consequently, the recipients of this prestigious award inhabit a select community. As of 2014, only 3,492 medals have been granted, 851 since the onset of World War II. Of those 851, more than 60 percent were awarded to soldiers posthumously.