Prizes of War

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

People who win military awards are very special. They are people whose achievements have been outstanding due to their bravery, courage, or daring. The U.S. military gives 28 decorations, or awards, for outstanding achievement. The Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross are considered the highest honors one can receive.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Who's eligible? Any person involved in enemy conflict, not necessarily a member of the military. The medal is occasionally awarded in peacetime for extraordinary achievement.

Achievement: One must risk one's own life “above and beyond the call of duty” for the benefit of others. This means doing something no one could expect of you, out of your own desire to help others. This medal is the highest honor for valor or bravery.

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the only decoration worn around the neck. All other honors are worn on the uniform. See The Medal of Honor at for a full list of recipients.

Distinguished Service Cross

Who's eligible? People in or working with the armed forces during battle.

Achievement: This medal is the second highest honor for valor or bravery. The act of courage must be performed during a military mission and must include the risk of life so unusual that it sets one apart from one's peers, or equals.

Purple Heart

Who's eligible? Anyone serving in the armed forces.

Achievement: Established by George Washington, this is the oldest American military decoration. One has to be wounded in combat.

Distinguished Flying Cross

Who's eligible? All military personnel. It can also be awarded by Congress to outstanding pioneers of aviation.

Achievement: A person must show outstanding heroism during aerial flight.

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