The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest military award for valor. It has been bestowed on 3,496 men and one woman (a Civil War surgeon) since President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law on Dec. 21, 1861. It is reserved for those who are distinguished "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."
Inside the White House: The Medal of Honor
Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward C. Byers Jr., received the Medal of Honor for superior gallantry, extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk, dedication to his teammates and calm tactical leadership while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan in December 2012.
Retired Army Capt. Florent A. Groberg received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry for courageous actions while serving as a personal security detachment commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations in Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Aug. 8, 2012.
President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts for his courageous actions while serving as a forward observer during combat operations in Afghanistan's Kunar province, on July 13, 2008.
Cpl. Carpenter was holding a rooftop security position when a hand grenade was thrown his way by insurgents. Without hesitation, Carpenter rushed toward the grenade to shield his fellow soldiers. The grenade detonated with Carpenter’s body taking the majority of the blast.
Sgt. White exhibited extraordinary personal bravery exposing himself numerous times to effective and accurate fire. Despite being wounded himself, he took charge of his element, arranged security and selflessly provided critical aid to wounded soldiers.
In seven hours of continuous fighting, Swenson braved intense enemy fire, and willfully put his life in danger against the enemy's main effort multiple times in service of his fallen and wounded comrades, his unit, his country, and his endangered Afghan partners.
While under heavy small arms and indirect fire that lasted more than six hours, Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter proved himself time after time. He resupplied ammunition, provided first aid to a battle buddy, killed enemy troops, and valiantly risked his own life to save a fellow soldier.
Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha displayed extraordinary heroism through a daylong engagement, Oct. 3, 2009, in which he killed multiple enemy fighters, recovered fallen soldiers, and led multiple recovery, resupply, and counterattack operations.
During a six-hour fire fight in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer single-handedly turned the tide of the battle, saved 36 Marines and soldiers and recovered the bodies of his fallen brothers.
Already wounded in both legs, Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry unhesitatingly grabbed an armed grenade and threw it away to save his fellow Rangers. The grenade detonated, severing his right hand. President Barack Obama awarded Petry the Medal of Honor July 12, 2011.
While conducting a patrol in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta faced a barrage of enemy fire, risking his life to save his fellow soldiers. The first living recipient since the Vietnam War, President Barack Obama awarded Giunta the Medal of Honor on Nov. 16, 2010.
President Obama posthumously awarded Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller the Medal of Honor, Oct. 6, 2010. In 2008, Miller displayed immeasurable courage in Afghanistan, sacrificing his own life to save the lives of his teammates and 15 Afghanistan National Army soldiers.
Determined not to leave his fallen comrade, Sergeant Monti made three attempts to cross open terrain through intense enemy fire. On this final attempt, he was mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life in an effort to save his fellow soldier.
With total disregard for his own life, Smith maintained an exposed position to engage the enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.
While suffering grave gunshot wounds and knowingly exposing himself to enemy fire, Murphy's undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion in the face of certain death, ultimately led to the rescue and the recovery of his fallen comrades.
Smothering a live hand grenade with his helmet and body, Dunham saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country.
In a gallant act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, McGinnis pinned a live grenade thrown by an insurgent between his body and a vehicle. His extraordinary heroism and selfless action saved four men from certain serious injury or death.
Without hesitation and showing no regard for his own life, Monsoor threw himself onto a grenade hurled by an enemy fighter, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying nearby. His courageous and selfless actions saved the lives of two fellow SEALs.
After his Navy SEAL team’s helicopter was crippled by enemy fire and crash landed, Slabinski rallied his team, showing undaunted courage and selflessness in trying to rescue a teammate during a heated 14-hour battle atop a 10,000-foot mountain near Ghazni, Afghanistan.