5 Things You Didn't Know About The Medal of Honor

On July 12, 1862, Congress authorized the Medal of Honor to recognize brave members of the military who who had committed acts of courage. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the prestigious  Medal of Honor...

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About Half Were Awarded During The Civil War President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in 1861 that created a medal so the Navy could recognize those sailors and Marines who “most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” The following year, Congress expanded it to include the valiant members of the U.S. Army. Initially, the requirements for the award were somewhat vague, and it was quickly given to 1,522 participants. 

More Than 800 Soldiers Had to Return Their Medals Being awarded the Medal of Honor is one thing but what about having it revoked? You’d have to ask the 864 soldiers of the 27th Maine Infantry Regiment who were awarded the medal for their service during the Civil War only to have them recalled when the Army changed eligibility criteria for the Medal of Honor. Another group of soldiers had their Medals of Honor revoked because all they did was escort the body of President Lincoln to Springfield, Illinois, for burial, and they did not see any military action. 

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The Medal of Honor Comes With Amazing Perks While having a medal hung around your neck by the president is an enormous honor, other perks come with it. Added to their earned military benefits, they receive an additional $1,329.58 each month as well as a 10 percent increase in their retirement pay. Being a Medal of Honor recipient also makes them eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Only One President Was Awarded the Medal of Honor It won’t come as much of a surprise that Teddy Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor. However, it didn’t happen during his lifetime. Roosevelt was serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy when the Spanish-American War began and quickly joined the Army to lead the Rough Riders. Roosevelt was excluded from the Medal of Honor in 1916 citing a lack of evidence for heroic action, but in 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded it to him posthumously.

The Youngest Medal of Honor Recipient Was Awarded at 11 Born in New York, 11-year-old Willie Johnston enlisted in the Union Army alongside his father, serving as a drummer boy with the 3rd Vermont Infantry during the Civil War. In June 1862, overpowered by Confederate forces, his unit retreated down the Virginia Peninsula under orders from General George McClellan. Along the way, the men discarded their equipment to hasten their pace. Young Willie, however, clung to his drum throughout the march and was later asked to play for his entire division on July 4. When Abraham Lincoln heard about the drummer’s bravery, he recommended him for the Medal of Honor.