The United States military awards a variety of medals to its service members in recognition of their achievements and sacrifices. These medals come in different types and are awarded for different actions or accomplishments. The highest among these is the Medal of Honor that was most recently awarded to Paris Davis in March 2023 for his service in the Vietnam War. However, this is one of many awards that are issued across all US military branches. (These are the most prestigious medals and honors of the United States military.)
Using Military-Ranks.org’s database of Military Medals, 24/7 Wall St. listed the 29 types of medals and awards that members of the United States armed forces are eligible for. Some of these medals, such as the Coast Guard Cross, have not yet been awarded. Others, notably those that were awarded in recognition of service in particular American conflicts, will likely not be awarded again.
We ranked these types of medals according to their precedence in an ascending order. Precedence refers to the honor and distinction signified by being awarded each medal. It also, according to military tradition, determines the order in which they are displayed on a service ribbon rack. Some of these medals are only issued to one branch while others are issued to all military branches. We have included supplemental data from Military-Ranks on which branches issue each type of decoration and an example of one and how that example would be earned. Notably, the Space Force is not included in this list, as no Space Force member has yet received an award.
After the Medal of Honor, the award bestowing the highest honor in the U.S. military is the Service Cross. Each branch awards this medal for actions of extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat against an enemy armed force.
There are a number of other medals ranging from Pistol Marksmanship to Prisoner of War, each individual medal representing exemplary achievement or incredible sacrifice. Here’s a look at the 29 types of medals awarded by the US military, ranked:
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