Why We Celebrate Medal of Honor Day

Salute Their Sacrifice: Why We Celebrate Medal of Honor Day


Written by John Rothans

Mar 19, 2021

Warmer weather, spring break, blooming flowers—there’s so much to celebrate in March, but not all of it is fun and games. Medal of Honor Day is March 25, and it’s an important day that deserves every American’s respect and attention. Learn why we honor the day and what you can do to pay tribute.

What Is Medal of Honor Day?

The Medal of Honor—also known as the Congressional Medal of Honor—is the highest award a member of the U.S. armed services can receive for valor in combat. Congress often presents it to those who went above and beyond the call of duty on the battlefield.

In 1990, Congress designated March 25 of each year as National Medal of Honor Day. President George H.W. Bush signed the bill, providing another avenue for honoring Medal of Honor recipients’ heroism and sacrifice in the U.S.

How Is Medal of Honor Day Being Observed in 2021?

In light of social-distancing guidelines put in place during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation is introducing a new observance on Medal of Honor Day 2021. At 3:25 p.m. EST on March 25, 2021, Americans are asked to observe the first-ever “Moment of Honor.” It’s a virtual way to quietly reflect upon the bravery of Medal of Honor recipients. The Foundation also suggests flying an American flag on March 25 to observe Medal of Honor Day.

Planning is underway for the National Medal of Honor Museum, set to open in 2024 in Arlington, Texas. The Museum Foundation is also working on establishing a Medal of Honor monument in Washington, D.C., to recognize the fewer than 4,000 recipients of the medal.

Well-Known Recipients of the Medal of Honor

Of the thousands of Medal of Honor recipients, many deserve a special mention. They include:

  • Pvt. Jacob Parrot, one of the first recipients of the Medal of Honor.
  • Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, a racecar driver who earned recognition as a World War I fighter pilot.
  • Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, the youngest living recipient of the medal. More than 100 Medal of Honor recipients remain alive.
  • Cpl. Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, a prisoner of war for 28 months during the Korean War.
  • Capt. Tom Custer, the younger brother of Lt. Col. George Custer and the first two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor.
  • Seaman Robert Augustus Sweeney, the only African American to be a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor.
  • Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient. He was recognized in September 2020 for helping liberate more than 70 hostages from an ISIS prison compound in Iraq in 2015.

The Army accounts for more Medal of Honor recipients than any other branch of the U.S. military: over 2,400. More than half of those medals (1,522) were awarded during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln established the Medal of Honor in 1862. Just a few Medals of Honor have been awarded since the Vietnam War.

“The Medal of Honor is the only U.S. military award worn around the neck as opposed to being pinned on the uniform. Among other privileges, Medal of Honor recipients receive invitations to attend presidential inaugurations and accompanying festivities,” according to Washington, D.C., TV station WETA.

Medal of Honor Coins

The U.S. Treasury Department authorized the U.S. Mint to issue as many as 100,000 gold $5 coins and up to 500,000 silver $1 coins to commemorate the establishment of the Medal of Honor in the 1860s. These gold and silver coins are produced in both proof and uncirculated versions.

“The designs are emblematic of the traditions, legacy, and heritage of the Medal of Honor and the distinguished service of its recipients,” the U.S. Mint explains. The Mint released the $5 and $1 coins in 2011.

While they’re not directly tied to the Medal of Honor, U.S. Money Reserve offers two patriotic sets of coins observing two military events that have produced medal-worthy heroes:

  • Pearl Harbor. Fifteen men received Medals of Honor for their service during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but only five of them survived to learn of this recognition. U.S. Money Reserve released the Pearl Harbor coin series to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Battle of Iwo Jima. Twenty-seven Marines and sailors received Medals of Honor for their service during World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima in Japan. U.S. Money Reserve launched the Iwo Jima coin series in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

You don’t have to personally know a Medal of Honor recipient to pay tribute on March 25. Share the meaning of the day with friends and family and call U.S. Money Reserve to learn more about our gold and silver coin series that pay tribute to American heroes.


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