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How Custom Medals Recognize Acts of Valor: Medal of Honor



Medal of Honor

Only some custom medals have reached prominence, like the USA Medal of Honor, also known as the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious military recognition given to USA military service members. The President of the United States presents it on behalf of the United States Congress. As of 2021, Utah has five Medal of Honor Recipients.

Medal of Honor Award Requirements

According to the Department of Defense’s website, the Medal of Honor is given to: 

“Members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.”

The History of the Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Most of us have heard of the Medals of Honor, but little know its origins. In this article, we’ll discuss how three custom medals became the highest military recognition possible in the history of the US military and where custom medals are made today – Ogden, Utah. 


During the US Civil War, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Townsend presented an idea to the Commanding General of the US Army – Lieutenant General Winfield Scott — to award custom medals for bravery. However, Scott was against it because it was the European tradition to present medals. After Scott retired in October 1861, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, adopted Townsend’s idea to recognize distinguished acts of service. 

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The US Congress hadn’t yet established the Medals of Honor. Bernard J.D. Irwin was awarded the first US Medal of Honor 30 years after voluntarily leading a rescue mission in Apache Pass, Arizona, rescuing 60 captured soldiers during the Civil War. 

December 9, 1861

The idea of “custom medals of honor” was presented by US Senator James W. Grimes from Iowa. James wanted to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by recognizing active service members who distinguished themselves during the US Civil War. In addition, he believed acts of valor by service members should be recognized at the highest levels of government. 

December 21, 1861

The Navy Medal of Honor was signed into legislation by President Abraham Lincoln. The Philadelphia Mint was instructed to design the new custom medal. A short while later, the Department of the Navy made the first order of 175 medals. Today, Utah facilities make custom medals for non-military acts of service.  

July 12, 1862

The Army Medal of Honor was signed into legislation by President Abraham Lincoln. 

June 26, 1897

The US Congress and Department of Defense adopted new requirements for awarding the custom medal. These new requirements included: 

  • There must be eyewitness statements; 
  • Someone other than the recipient must make the recommendation;
  • The recommendation must be submitted within one year of the action. 

September 20, 1905

Before 1905, service members received the Medal of Honor through the mail or at a military muster – the process of accounting for members in a military unit. Then, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an Executive Order stating that the Medal of Honor must be officially presented during a formal ceremony – meant to represent the gratitude of the American people. The next of kin is still presented with the custom award if the recipient is deceased. 

Today, this custom medal is usually presented at the White House in Washington, DC. While the US Mint makes the Medal of Honor for the US Government. Ogden, Utah, is busy at work making custom medals for anyone wanting to recognize someone else for any act of service. 

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April 27, 1916

Congress established a monthly pension for Medal of Honor recipients. Recipients over 65 and recognized for gallantry in conflict are eligible for the special pension. The pension was later opened to all medal recipients, regardless of age. Throughout 1916, the US Congress reviewed every medal recipient and stripped 911 service members from their Medal of Honor because the custom medal was wrongfully awarded.

Present Day

The requirements have changed throughout the years. Today, recommendations for the Medal of Honor must be submitted within three years of the brave act, and the custom medal must be presented within five years. Two eyewitness accounts are also required. 

Performing a distinguishing act of bravery isn’t easy for anyone, and neither is receiving the Medal of Honor. The service member selected to receive the custom medal must be approved throughout the military chain of command all the way to the US President – the Commander-in-Chief.

Three distinct variants of the Medals of Honor exist with different inscriptions, emblems, and insignias. 

  • Army Medal of Honor: awarded to soldiers of the Department of the Navy.
  • Navy Medal of Honor: awarded to sailors, marines, and coast guardsmen of the Department of the Navy. 
  • Air Force Medal of Honor: awarded to airmen and guardians of the Department of the Air Force. 

Custom Award Medals: Recognizing Acts of Service

Medal of Honor

The three Medals of Honor designed for the Navy, Army, and Air Force are presented to the most decorated service members who go above and beyond their military duties. 

 SymbolArts in Ogden, Utah, a collectible items supplier, makes custom medals for personal, public safety, law enforcement, and corporate members who go above and beyond in their job duties. One of the best ways to recognize acts of service is with a custom medal! SymbolArts in Ogden makes custom medals so you can present your award to anyone worthy of recognition! 

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