On July 12, 1862, Congress authorized the Medal of Honor to recognize brave members of the military who distinguished themselves in combat. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the prestigious Medal of Honor...
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.
Medal of Honor Recipients Receive a Few Extra Benefits
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 for 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.
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 who 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.
The Award Was Investigated for Racism Following World War II The Medal of Honor was not awarded to any of the African-Americans during World War II, so the Army launched an investigation to discover why. While they didn’t find any proof that skin color was involved in awarding the medals, they did see that racism played into honors paid to the units they belonged to. Ten African-Americans who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross were upgraded as a result to the Medal of Honor.