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How the top 7 war medals are issued to troops

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US Medals of Honor. Air Force, Army and Navy types. Part of the AEA Collections.

Bestowing of war medals continues to be the most admired and preserved tradition in the culture of the US Armed Forces. Five branches of the US military, including the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Army, award medals. Awards may be given during war or peacetime while defending civilians or other service members and are customarily earned for actions taken during combat. The Space Force is still forming their SOPs in all aspects of the branch but we can reasonably assume they will follow some sort of traditional way to bestow awards.

Different medals have different meanings; some indicate remarkable service in aerial flight, others are distinct to ground operations, while others are meant for those in the sea only. Some specific medals are awarded to certain branches, while others can be given to members of all the branches. They can also indicate serving during a specific conflict, for instance, Afghanistan.

This is how the top 7 war medals are issued to troops

Medal of Honor

This is the highest and most desired medal the United States government can grant to an Armed Forces member. The medal is usually issued by the President as a representative of Congress and includes three variations; one is for the Air Force, one for the Army, and the other for Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps. Medal of Honor is issued to US Armed Forces members who differentiate themselves via conspicuous valor and dauntlessness, putting their country and team member’s life before theirs.

Distinguished Service Cross

Second in rank is the Distinguished Service Cross, usually awarded to an Army member. It depicts gallantry in the war that is remarkable enough to exceed the requirements for all other medals except the medal of honor. The medal was issued in honor of the member, letting the whole world know that they sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Although not the highest in rank, the Distinguished Service Cross is also one of the most desired medals awarded.

DSC war medals
Maj. General Hanson E. Ely, Division Cmdr. pinning the DSC on Capt. Howard R. MacAdams, 7th Eng. 5th division, Esch Luxembourg. (Army War College)

Navy Cross

The Navy Cross is also awarded to Navy or Coast Guard members who show extraordinary heroism that supersedes the rest of the medals other than the Medal of Honor. Like the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross is also desired, and anyone awarded with it is given at most respect. A member of the Coast Guard can only be awarded a Navy Cross if they are under the Navy Command.

Coast Guard Cross

Similarly, a member of the Coast Guard can be awarded the Coast Guard Cross if they show remarkable pluck in combat. Coast Guard Cross comes second after Medal of Honor and is only issued to individuals who provide their service in different ways with the Coast Guard.

Air Force Cross

Like all the other second-ranking medals, the Air Force Cross is issued to members of the Air Force who depict bravery in combat but still don’t qualify for the Medal of Honor. All these second-ranking medals are issued to specific branches, but all have the same power. A member of the Navy issued with a cross medal is given the same respect as a member issued Air Force Cross.

silver star war medals
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen awards the Silver Star to U.S. Army Capt. Gregory Ambrosia at Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, July 11, 2008. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Silver Star

Silver Star comes at number three, usually granted to a member of the Armed Forces. It shows that the member presented gallantry in rising actions above the requirements for all medals apart from Medal of Honor and Branch-specific medals.

Defense Distinguished Service Medal

President Richard Nixon established this medal in 1970 in honor of members who present meritorious service in a position with colossal responsibility while dealing with a joint service mission. It is usually issued by the Secretary of Defense and is the highest military joint service medal as well as the highest non-combat decoration.