The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and it’s the most prestigious military award presented by the U.S. government to members of the armed forces. Awarded by the president in the name of Congress to recognize acts of valor on the battlefield, some 3,525 Medals of Honor have been awarded to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen over the years. Since the start of U.S. involvement in World War II, over half of all Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously.
24 American servicemen have received the Medal of Honor since 9/11, 9 of them posthumously. Master Sgt. Matthew Williams is the most recent recipient. Over 10 years ago, he initially earned the Silver Star for saving several of his fellow Green Berets during a long and intense firefight on a mountainside in Afghanistan. The battle saw ten special forces soldiers and their combat cameraman awarded the Silver Star for bravery and the team’s medic, Ronald J. Shurer, also saw his Silver Star upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
Prior to Master Sgt. Willians, former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia was the most recent Medal of Honor recipient when he became the first living veteran of the war in Iraq to receive the prestigious medal – the five others all received it posthumously. Bellavia was recognized for his bravery in Fallujah in 2004 when he charged alone into a darkened house. He single-handedly killed four insurgents and seriously wounded the fifth, even engaging in hand-to-hand combat, actions that helped save his squad.