What Makes Medal of Honor so Great?

February 17, 2019

US Army 1st. Sgt. Robert Durbin holds 1st Sgt. David McNerney's Medal of Honor during an Enshrinement Ceremony at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, 2013. The Smithsonian Institution accepted McNerney's Medal of Honor for inclusion in the National Postal Museum collection where it will be displayed in the National Stamp Salon of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery.

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade, US Army

 

The fact that America’s highest decoration for bravery and valor on the battlefield, the Medal of Honor, brings a great deal of prestige and respect for the recipient is no secret.
 
It is an acknowledgment that the recipient went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or made a heavy sacrifice for the people of America.
 
Living Medal of Honor recipients are entitled to benefits – which in the corporate world would be called "perks” – most service members don't get. But make no mistake; these heroes don't risk their lives on the battlefield for "perks." They will even go as far as saying they aren't heroes and what they did to earn the medal was driven by a sense of commitment to their comrades and their mission, not a decoration.
 
In addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the US government provide medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice.

 

A soldier places American flags in front of headstones during "Flags In" at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 24, 2018. The soldier is assigned to the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, known as "The Old Guard". 

US Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser


 
Here are a few special privileges that serve as an enduring "thank you" from the American people to these brave service members and their families.
 
Highest Military Pension
 

Recipients receive a Special Medal of Honor pension of $1,303.51 per month, as of March 2017, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, above and beyond any military pensions or other benefits for which they may be eligible, including cost-of-living increases.
 
Plus, there is a 10 percent increase in their retirement pay, provided it doesn't exceed the maximum allowed by law. 
 
Preferred Access to Military Academies 
 
Children of Medal of Honor recipients, if they qualify, get access to admission in US military academies, without having to worry about nomination and quota requirements for their state.

 

The US Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the Air Force Academy Class of 2016 Graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 2, 2016. More than 800 cadets graduated to become the newest 2nd Lieutenants in the USAF. US Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan


 
Free, Priority “Space A” Travel
 

The recipients also get Special entitlements to “Space A” air transportation. They can travel on aircraft under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Defense when capacity allows.
 
This benefits dependents as well since they can travel on domestic and international routes when accompanied by the recipient.
 
While active duty military members, some veterans and their dependents are allowed to hitch rides in empty seats on military planes, Medal of Honor recipients get preferred access, meaning they can jump the line!
 
Reserved Spaces at On-base Amenities
 
Service members with a Medal of Honor, along with their families, also get lifelong access to some military benefits like the commissary, on-post gyms, pools and recreational facilities. 

 

Children from the Yoiko Child Development Center (CDC) dress up in military attire for the "March with Pride" fun walk at Misawa Air Base, Japan, April 11, 2012. More than 150 children from the CDC participated as they celebrated The Month of the Military Child.

DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, US Air Force


 
Special Status in Exchange of Salutes
 
While military members aren't required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes.
 
Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the chain of command, anyone may render a salute to a Medal of Honor recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting Medal of Honor recipients.
 
Invitation to Presidential Inaugurations
 
One of the special privileges that the Medal of Honor confers on its recipients is an invitation to all future presidential inaugurations and inaugural balls.

 

The sun rises over the US Capital before the public swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C, Jan. 21, 2013. President Barack H. Obama was elected to a second four-year term in office Nov. 6, 2012. More than 5,000 US Service members participated in or supported the inauguration.

DoD photo by Cpl. Christina O'Neil, U.S. Marine Corps


 
Special Permission to Wear Uniform 
 
As with all medals, retired personnel may wear the Medal of Honor on "appropriate" civilian clothing. Regulations specify that recipients of the Medal of Honor are allowed to wear the uniform "at their pleasure" with standard restrictions on political, commercial, or extremist purposes.

Designated License Plates
 

Many states, including California, Iowa and Wisconsin, have special automobile license plates that only a Medal of Honor recipient can put on his car, and some of those states waive the usual registration fees.
 
The states that do not offer a Medal of Honor specific license plate usually have special plates for veterans, which medal recipients can use.
 
Headstones with Gold Lettering and Full Burial Honors
 
Finally, upon their death, Medal of Honor recipients are guaranteed a burial with full military honors, an honor otherwise only guaranteed to retirees and active duty service members. This includes a nine-member team of six pallbearers, a chaplain, an officer-in-charge or noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, and a bugler.

 

US Sailors render a 21-gun salute during a funeral for Navy Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, April 4, 2018. Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in trying to save the life of his wingman during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.

US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jackie Hart


Medal of Honor recipients’ graves are also marked with a special headstone that bears the Medal of Honor symbol and special gold lettering to denote their status.
 
In conclusion, the benefits and privileges bestowed upon Medal of Honor recipients and their dependents are simply a token of appreciation for the sacrifices they made to protect America and its people. 

 

Disclaimer: The appearance of US Department of Defense (DoD) visual information on this website does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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