Top 12 Military Awards for Valor

Originally, I was going to make this a top 10 article but as I performed my research, I felt that I had to add 2 to that number.

While the military has many awards, not all can be considered for valor.

Definition of Valor: strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness: personal bravery

military awards for valor

In today’s post, I am going to give what I believe to be the top 12 United States military awards for valor.

Some of these are not in the order you would wear them on your uniform, but I believe the valor level is in this order.

You may disagree with my order and that is okay. I even ask that you state in the comment section the order you would have, and why you would have them that way.

Okay, starting with #12, I am giving the top 12 military awards for valor.

Military Award For Valor #12: Bronze Star

The Bronze Star can be awarded for military actions that do not have “valor” attached to them, so the Department of Defense recognizes valor instances by giving a “V” device when valor is a part of the award.

The Bronze Star is awarded when military personnel distinguishes his/her self with heroic or metorious service

  • while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States
  • while involved in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force
  • 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.

Military Award For Valor #11: Coast Guard Medal

This medal is awarded to members of the Coast Guard who distinguish themselves with acts of heroism and bravery that is not part of conflict with an enemy.

In most cases, these were awarded when trying to rescue people in grave danger.

Military Award For Valor #10: Airman’s Medal

Similar to the Coast Guard Medal, the Airman’s Medal is awarded to members of the Air Force who risk their life in a heroic act.

This may or may not involve the saving of lives, but putting their own life in danger for service to our country.

Military Award For Valor #9: Navy And Marine Corps Medal

Similar to the above 2 medals, this medal carries the same prescription. It involves life endangering acts that helped to serve our nation.

Most notably, President John F. Kennedy was awarded this when he commanded PT-109.

Military Award For Valor #8: Soldier’s Medal

While this is equivalent to the 3 above, I put it lower since the Army‘s version is the oldest. It was established in 1926 and is also awarded to Army personnel who risk their life in service that does not involve actual conflict.

Military Award For Valor #7: Distinguished Flying Cross

This is awarded to members of the United States military who show extraordinary heroism while in flight.

I put this here because just getting in an aircraft during military operations is heroic in my opinion and anything more is magnificent.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. The Selling Of Military Awards
  2. Army Medal of Honor Recipients From The War in Afghanistan
  3. The Army Distinguished Service Cross: 10 Things You Should Know About It
  4. The Purple Heart: 10 Things You Should Know
  5. 17 Vietnam War Soldiers Who Made A Difference

Military Award For Valor #6: Purple Heart

I even considered having this prestigious military award higher on the list… The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who have been wounded or killed while in combat.

Any soldier who has a Purple Heart has shown his/her valor and bravery.

Military Award For Valor #5: Silver Star

This is awarded to United States military personnel who displayed gallantry and valor in action against an enemy of the United States.

Any one who wears a Silver Star has every right to be proud of their service.

Military Award For Valor #4: Air Force Cross

This award was implemented soon after the Air Force became a separate entity.

It is awarded to personnel who showed extraordinary heroism in the face of battle but still not justified for the highest award.

One person has been awarded the Air Force Cross 3 times: Colonel James Kasler was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Military Award For Valor #3: Navy Cross

This award is similar in presentation to the Air Force Cross in that it is given for extraordinary heroism in combat where the Medal of Honor merits were not reached. It is awarded primarily to members of the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard but has also been awarded to members of other military branches.

Military Award For Valor #2: Distinguished Service Cross

This is the 2nd highest award that can be given to the United States Army and like the Air Force and Navy Crosses, it is given for valor and heroism in combat but is just below the ability to get the Medal of Honor.

Military Award For Valor #1: The Medal Of Honor

Naturally, this is the #1 award for valor in the United States military.

Many recipients are not alive to receive this award. It is presented by the President of the United States and is given far above and beyond in service and defense of our country.

Any member who has the Medal of Honor showed great valor and bravery.

Final Thoughts

That is my opinion of the top 12 military awards for valor.

Do you agree or would you have a different order?

Please post your comments below and will you please share this so we can get other opinions?

Thank you.



About The Author

Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at

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