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The Pyramid of Honor


The Service Crosses
(L-R Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross,
USMC Brevet Medal, Air Force Cross)

To recognize degrees of bravery below that honored by the Medal of Honor, several other medals are awarded for gallantry, valor, and heroism. The Pyramid of Honor is a hierarchy of military awards—with the Medal of Honor at the peak—awarded to American veterans of military service.

Second in precedence to the Medal of Honor, the armed services award the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), the Navy Cross (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), and the Air Force Cross (Air Force) to individuals who distinguish themselves by extraordinary heroism rising to a level below that required for the Medal of Honor.

The Distinguished Service Cross

For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force.
For service members serving in any capacity with the Army. The Distinguished Service Cross is our Nation's second highest award for military valor, behind only the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross was established in 1918 to honor heroism of the highest degree that did not quite merit the Medal of Honor. The Navy Cross (Navy, Marines and Coast Guard) and the Air Force Cross all join the DSC as our Nation's second highest military award.

The Navy Cross

For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force.
Authorized February 4, 1919, the Navy Cross was the Navy's 3rd highest award for combat heroism and other distinguished services. On August 7, 1942 Congress made the Navy Cross a combat only decoration with precedence over the Distinguished Service Medal, making it the Navy's 2nd highest award ranking below only the Medal of Honor. It shares its position with the Army's Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross.

Air Force Cross

For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force.
The Air Force Cross was established in 1960 to honor heroism of the highest degree that did not merit the Medal of Honor. Previously airmen of the Army Air Corps were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for such actions. The Air Force Cross became the unique award of the United States Air Force to replace the Army Award for members of their own branch of service. The Navy Cross (Navy, Marines and Coast Guard) and the Distinguished Service Cross (Army) all join the Air Force Cross as our Nation's second highest military award.

Why the Brevet Medal?

Prior to March 3, 1915 Marine Corps officers were NOT eligible for the Medal of Honor. The Brevet Medal was presented on a one-time basis in 1921 to living officers (or former officers) of the U.S Marine Corps who had received a brevet commission issued by the President and confirmed by the Senate for "distinguished conduct or public service in the presence of the enemy" during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, or the Boxer Rebellion.

The medal was designed by Sergeant Joseph Alfred Burnett. The ribbon, in USMC scarlet, closely mirrored the blue-and-white starred motif of the Medal of Honor. No attached devices were ever authorized. The Brevet Medal is/was worn after the Medal of Honor and before all other decorations.

In 1940, the Marine Corps declared the Brevet Medal obsolete since all but one of the original recipients were at that time deceased. The lone survivor, Major General John T. Myers, USMC, had been brevetted for valor at the siege of the U.S. embassy at Beijing, China, in 1900. He died in 1959. The medal was never again issued, since the concept of brevet commissions was phased out of the United States military to be replaced by temporary and field commissions which were awarded much more frequently than brevet ranks.

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