The Medal of Honor is the United States of America's highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. The medal is normally awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress. Because the medal is presented "in the name of Congress", it is often referred erroneously as the "Congressional Medal of Honor". However, the official name of the current award is "Medal of Honor". Within the United States Code the medal is referred to as the "Medal of Honor", and less frequently as "Congressional Medal of Honor". U.S. awards, including the Medal of Honor, do not have post-nominal titles, and while there is no official abbreviation, the most common abbreviations are "MOH" and "MH".
There are three versions of the medal, one each for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version. The Medal of Honor was introduced for the Navy in 1861, soon followed by an Army version in 1862 The Medal of Honor is the oldest continuously issued combat decoration of the United States' armed forces. The President typically presents the Medal at a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the U.S. people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin.
According to the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, there have been 3,525 Medals of Honor awarded to 3,506 individuals since the decoration's creation, with over 40% awarded for actions during the American Civil War. In 1990, Congress designated March 25 annually as "National Medal of Honor Day". Since 1948, the Medal of Honor and all service decorations awarded to members of the armed forces by any of the armed services have been afforded special protection under U.S. law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture, which includes any associated ribbon or badge.