The Army Soldier’s Medal: 13 Cool Facts

Because of its name, many people do not realize the importance and prestige of the Army Soldier’s Medal. I have discovered that a wide range of people who are not “military minded” just assume that any soldier who is in the Army will automatically receive the Soldier’s Medal once they complete basic training.


In today’s post, we are going to explain the Army Soldier’s Medal. As you may be familiar with what it takes to earn this honor, you may want to share this post with the friends and family who do not understand just how prestigious this award is.

Here are 13 cool facts about the Army Soldier’s Medal.

1: When the Soldier’s Medal was established

The Soldier’s Medal was thrown into the Air Corps Acts that was handed to Congress in 1926. When Congress passed the Air Corps Act, they were also instituting the Soldier’s Medal. The original Air Corps was under Army command, until years later when it became the United States Air Force.

2: The basic criteria to be awarded a Soldier’s Medal

The basic criteria for a soldier to be awarded a Soldier’s Medal is: while serving with the United States Army, it is a distinguished act of heroism that is not a result of actual conflict with an enemy of the United States.

3: Save a life

While many might think that just by saving someone’s life should be grounds to be awarded the Soldier’s Medal, this is not true. The person being awarded the Soldier’s Medal would have had to put their own self into danger or risk of loss of life or serious injury in the act that justifies being awarded the Soldier’s Medal.

4: More criteria

A factor that is looked at in determining whether a service member can be awarded the Soldier’s Medal is: if the act would have been performed during a combat flying situation, would the soldier be eligible to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross? The Soldier’s Medal rates at that level in non combat situations. Keep in mind, the Soldier’s Medal is the highest award any member can receive for acts of heroism not involving combat or war.

5: Retirement pay

If an enlisted member is awarded the Soldier’s Medal, and the heroism involved is equal to a combat situation in which the soldier would receive the Distinguished Service Cross, that member would also be eligible to have 10% added to their retirement pay if they are eligible for retirement pay. This is an added bonus to show how much the Army appreciates acts of bravery even during non combat situations.

6: Precedence

On a soldier’s uniform, the Soldier’s Medal ribbon is wore directly above the Bronze Star Medal, and directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross.

7: More than 1

If a soldier is awarded more than 1 Soldier’s Medal, any extras are denoted by Oak Leaf clusters. A soldier is not allowed to wear more than 1 on their uniform.

8: Soldier’s Medal design

The design of the Soldier’s Medal is a bronze octagon. On the front is an eagle with uplifted wings standing on a fasces. On the left side is 6 stars with a set of leaves. On the right side is a group of 7 stars. On the back, the words Soldier’s Medal are inscribed around the top, and for valor in the center. A shield with US in the center and oak and laurel leaves adorning the outer edges round the medal off. There is an area where the recipient’s name can be inscribed.

9: First Soldier’s Medal awards

On October 17th, 1927, 4 soldiers were awarded the first Soldier’s Medals. They were:

  • Private Cleophas Burnett. Private Burnett displayed heroism in rescuing 2 women from drowning in a swimming pool in San Antonio, Texas on August 16th, 1926.

  • PFC John Burns. PFC Burns risked his own life in extinguishing a fire at the Pig Point Ordnance Depot in Pig Point, Virginia on August 18th, 1926.

  • PFC James Martin. PFC Martin also bravely fought the fire at the Pig Point Ordnance Depot along with PFC Burns.

  • Warrant Officer James Wilson. On August 12th, 1926, Warrant Officer Wilson was a Boy Scout leader. Hearing one of the scouts crying for help, he dove into the lake without removing clothing, and at his own risk, pulled the drowning boy to safety.

10: My Lai Massacre

In 1968 in war torn Vietnam, a platoon leader by the name of Lieutenant William Calley ordered his soldiers to kill approximately 400+ unarmed Vietnamese civilians. This massacre was a big black mark on the United States and the U.S. Army. During the process, 3 soldiers stood against the Lieutenant and the other soldiers. They even threatened to shoot their comrades if they did not stop. For this, years later these soldiers were awarded the Soldier’s Medal. The soldiers who were brave enough to do this at Sơn Mỹ were:

It is soldiers like these that make our country great.

11: Colin Powell

On his 2nd tour of Vietnam, then Major Colin Powell was in a helicopter crash. Even though he was injured badly, he rescued 3 other people from the crash, one of which was Major General Charles Gettys. For that act of bravery, Powell was awarded the Soldier’s Medal. Powell retired from the Army as a 4 star General and was the 65th Secretary of State.

12: Sergeant George Long

Sergeant Long may not be a household name, but he did perform an act of bravery that deserved the Soldier’s Medal. In April of 2014, you may recall a shooter at Ft Hood that ended up killing 3 soldiers, and then took his own life. That day, Sgt Long was there where the shooting took place. Sergeant 1st Class Danny Ferguson was a good friend of George’s. When the shooting started, Ferguson ran to close the door to protects other soldiers. Long followed and helped budge the door shut on the shooter. The gunman shot through the door and killed Ferguson. Long was endangered, but held the door shut. He was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, but he stated he feels his friend Danny Ferguson deserves it more.

13: Other recipients

There have been many Soldier’s Medals awarded. I want to just enlighten you to a few notable ones:

  • Colonel Henry Mucci. Colonel Mucci saved a fellow soldier from drowning.

  • Otto Kerner Jr. He was the 33rd Governor of Illinois, and he earned the Soldier’s Medal when he saved a drowning soldier off the coast of Sicily.

  • Comedian Marty Allen. Allen showed bravery when he was stationed in Italy. A plane burst into flames during refueling, and Allen saved people who could have been burned.

And with that, here is a Marty Allen one-liner:

“A study of economics usually reveals that the best time to buy anything is last year.”

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Soldier’s Medal carries a lot of prestige. Do you know anyone who has earned this honor? Please tell us about it. If you have earned the Soldier’s Medal, we would like to hear from you too. Just tell us in the comment section below.

I hope you learned something you didn’t know about the Soldier’s Medal. Now make sure and share it with those who need to know how honorable this award is. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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18 thoughts on “The Army Soldier’s Medal: 13 Cool Facts”

  1. Nicholas A Fotias

    My name is Nicholas A Fotias. I was awarded the Soldiers Medal on 26 Aug. 1970, while serving as a pathfinder on FSB Ripcord, Republic of Vietnam. I have copies of orders showing the award, but have not been able to find my name on any list or registry. I also would like information on how to apply for the additional 10% pay, and any other benefits.

    1. I received Soldier’s Medal for incident in early March 1967 as a team leader of a 6 man patrol with 173rd ABN BDE LRRP. Pointman attempted a stream crossing and went other. I jumped in with weapon and without taking off gear since I did not realize how deep water was and thought I could reach him. It was at least 10’ deep. We got him out but patrol was recalled.
      We were to go directly onto landing zone we were to reconnoiter the following morning. BDE S-2 and S-3 majors intercepted us at helicopter pad just before infiltration. They told us an infrared camera flight the night before showed proposed LZ had been a beehive of NVA activity the night before. Mission was scrubbed.

  2. Hi Greg,
    My dad received the Soldier’s Medal but unable to find his name on any list, Served WWII thru Vietnam. His name was Alvin Leonard Halverson DOB 05/20/1929 and was a MP Staff Sergeant in the 18th Military Police Brigade, 16th Mp Group, 127th Mp Company 2nd tour in Vietnam and died Feb 10, 1970. Would like to know why he received it. I’ve heard he was one tough soldier and many kept many of his guys alive.
    Thanks for any help you are able to give.
    Holly Ramirez

  3. Soldiers Medal was approved in June 2019 for saving a South Korean student/tourist who fell over a lookout point in the Grand Canyon 30 December 2018. My cousin and I scaled down into the canyon, performed first aid until park rangers repelled down into the canyon 45 minutes later.

  4. Hi Greg. My father won the Soldier’s medal back in 1973. In Schweinfurt Germany. I would like to know what the perks a receiving that metal are. His name is Sergeant First Class Pedro J Marzan

    1. If medal is awarded after ETS, it will not be on DD 214 but you should have certificate and orders awarding it. This should then be on DD215 which is correction or addendum to DD 214

  5. March 1969 at Ft.Hood ,Tx, I was driving my C.O. while we were grading field exercises. We came upon an accident where an M-60 yank slid down an embankment and turned over in a creek full on water. I jumped in and was able to talk the driver through the removal of the escape hatch. I got the driver and the gunner out but the tank commander drowned. My C.O. put me on for the Soldier’s Medal and it was mailed to me several months after I got out of the Army.

  6. I received the Soldiers Medal for Heroism in I believe it was September of1969 while serving in Det A 1st MIBARS Bien Hoa South Vietnam. 1st LT. Terry Rollins, Lavaca AR

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