The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government. It is bestowed on a member of the U.S. Army, Navy or Air Force who distinguishes himself or herself “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his (or her) life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.” Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously.
Distinguished Service Cross
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Army, awarded for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree to be above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations but not meeting the criteria for the Medal of Honor.
The Navy Cross is the highest medal that can be awarded by the Department of the Navy and the second-highest award given for valor. It is normally awarded only to members of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard but could be awarded to all branches of U.S. military and members of foreign militaries.
Air Force Cross
The Air Force Cross is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Air Force. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of the Medal of Honor. It may be awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Air Force, distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism in combat.
The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is also the third-highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy. The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States not justifying a Service Cross.
Distinguished Flying Cross (with valor)
The Distinguished Flying Cross is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the U.S. Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.
The Bronze Star is awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. When awarded for bravery, it is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth-highest military award (including both combat and non-combat awards) in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations.
The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of an Armed Force who has been wounded or killed or who has died or may hereafter die after being wounded:
(1) In any action against an enemy of the United States;
(2) In any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the U.S. Armed Forces are or have been engaged;
(3) 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;
(4) As a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces; or
(5) As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force.