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The Pyramid of Honor

To recognize degrees of bravery below that honored by the Medal of Honor, several other medals are awarded for gallantry, valor, and heroism. The Pyramid of Honor is a hierarchy of military awards—with the Medal of Honor at the peak—awarded to American veterans of military service.

Second in precedence to the Medal of Honor, the armed services award the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), the Navy Cross (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), and the Air Force Cross (Air Force) to individuals who distinguish themselves by extraordinary heroism rising to a level below that required for the Medal of Honor.

The Distinguished Service Cross
For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force. For service members serving in any capacity with the Army.
The Distinguished Service Cross is our Nation's second highest award for military valor, behind only the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross was established in 1918 to honor heroism of the highest degree that did not quite merit the Medal of Honor. The Navy Cross (Navy, Marines and Coast Guard) and the Air Force Cross all join the DSC as our Nation's second highest military award.

The Navy Cross
For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force.
Authorized February 4, 1919, the Navy Cross was the Navy's 3rd highest award for combat heroism and other distinguished services. On August 7, 1942 Congress made the Navy Cross a combat only decoration with precedence over the Distinguished Service Medal, making it the Navy's 2nd highest award ranking below only the Medal of Honor. It shares its position with the Army's Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross.

Air Force Cross
For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force.
The Air Force Cross was established in 1960 to honor heroism of the highest degree that did not merit the Medal of Honor. Previously airmen of the Army Air Corps were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for such actions. The Air Force Cross became the unique award of the United States Air Force to replace the Army Award for members of their own branch of service. The Navy Cross (Navy, Marines and Coast Guard) and the Distinguished Service Cross (Army) all join the Air Force Cross as our Nation's second highest military award.

Next come the medals that are common to all branches of the armed services.

The Silver Star
For distinguished gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States or while serving with friendly forces against an opposing enemy force.
The Silver Star is the third highest military award designated solely for heroism in combat. Established in 1918 as the Citation Star, in 1932 it was redesignated as a medal with a retroactive provision that allowed servicemen as far back as the Spanish-American War (1898) to receive it for gallant actions.

Distingushed Flying Cross
For heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.
Established in 1926 and made retroactive for actions after 1918, the first recipient of the DFC was Charles A. Lindberg. Other distinguished aviators to receive the award were Commander Richard Byrd and Amelia Earhart. The Distinguished Flying Cross can be awarded for achievements in aviation as demonstrated by these three recipients, or for heroism in aerial combat.

The Bronze Star
For heroic or meritorious achievement of service, not involving aerial flight in connection with operations against an opposing armed force.
Authorized on February 4, 1944 the Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of all branches of military service and may be awarded either for combat heroism or for meritorious service.

The Purple Heart
Awarded for wounds or death as result of an act of any opposing armed force, as a result of an international terrorist attack or as a result of military operations while serving as part of a peacekeeping force.
The oldest of our military awards, the predecessor for the Purple Heart was George Washington's "Badge of Military Merit" (1782). Washington's award was resurrected in 1932 as the Purple Heart and is awarded to any person wounded in action while serving in any of our Armed Forces. It is also presented posthumously to the next of kin of personnel killed in action or who die of wounds sustained in action.

The Air Medal
For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight or for a single act of heroism against an armed enemy.
Established in 1942, the Air Medal is awarded for meritorious achievement in aerial operations, for heroic acts in aerial operations against an armed enemy, or for merit in operational activities. During the Vietnam War, for instance, a single award of the Air Medal denoted participation by ground troops in a requisite number of "Combat Air Assaults".

Compiled from the Home of Heroes.


©2003 GWETA