There are currently 75 living recipients of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is bestowed upon any member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."
Of the 75 living recipients, six earned their Medals of Honor in World War II, six in the Korean War, 52 in the Vietnam War, and eleven in the War in Afghanistan. Three earned their medal while serving in the U.S. Air Force, 50 in the U.S. Army, 14 in the U.S. Marine Corps, and eight in the U.S. Navy. The oldest recipient is Robert D. Maxwell, aged 96, whereas the youngest is Kyle Carpenter, aged 27. Two medal holders are still on active duty in the U.S. military, War in Afghanistan soldier William D. Swenson of the U.S. Army and Edward Byers of the U.S. Navy. Among the recipients are former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey and three retired generals: Patrick Henry Brady and Robert F. Foley of the Army and James E. Livingston of the Marine Corps.
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.
World War II
During World War II 464 United States military personnel received the Medal of Honor, 266 (57.3%) of them posthumously. A total of 42 Medals of Honor were presented for action in just two battles – Fifteen for actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and 27 for actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima. A total of 21 (4.5% of all World War II Medals of Honor) were received by members of the all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions in numerous battles across six different campaigns. Additionally, the only Medal of Honor ever presented to a member of the United States Coast Guard was received for actions during this war.
During the Korean War, 136 Medals of Honor were presented for bravery in action, 98 (72.1%) of them posthumously. As of 2017, six recipients were still living.
During the Vietnam War, 248 Medals of Honor were received, 156 (62.9%) of them posthumously. Of the living recipients who received their medals for actions in the Vietnam War, 52 are alive as of 2017.
The first person to earn the Medal of Honor in this war was Roger Donlon who, on 6 July 1964, rescued and administered first aid to several wounded soldiers and led a group against an enemy force.
War in Afghanistan
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001 and was the beginning of the War on Terrorism. The war was launched by the United States, the United Kingdom, and NATO allies in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The stated purpose of the invasion was to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and safe harbor to al-Qaeda. Since 2001, 14 American service-members have received the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, three of them posthumously.
Recipients who died within the last twelve months are listed below.