The highest decoration (= award) that can be awarded to a British person is the Victoria Cross (VC), which is given to members of the armed forces ‘for conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy’. It is a bronze cross decorated with a lion and the words ‘For Valour’, which is hung from a crimson ribbon. The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856, during the Crimean War. It is reserved for acts of the greatest courage and is often awarded posthumously (= to a person who died as a result of their brave action).
  The highest decoration for members of the public is the George Cross (GC), which is also awarded for bravery in great danger. It is a silver cross decorated with St George and the Dragon and the words ‘For Gallantry’, and is hung from a dark blue ribbon. It was introduced by George VI in 1940.
  Other highly valued decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Military Cross and the George Medal. There are also medals for acts of bravery by police officers and by members of the fire-fighting, lifeboat and coastguard services.
  The US also has many medals for military and civilian achievements. The Medal of Honor (MH), often called the Congressional Medal of Honor, is the highest military award and is given for ‘the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty’. It is a star that hangs from a blue ribbon which is decorated with 13 white stars. It was created in 1862 during the Civil War, and by 1997 more than 3 400 had been awarded. Another well-known military medal is the Purple Heart (PH), which is awarded to Americans wounded in wars. George Washington introduced it in 1782 as the Badge of Military Merit, and the medal today has a ribbon above a purple heart with Washington’s image on it. Other important military awards include the Distinguished Service Cross and the Bronze Star.
  The highest US civilian award is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, established in 1945 as the Medal of Freedom. It was originally for military service, but President Kennedy changed this and also its name. The Congressional Gold Medal is also now only for civilians. The first was awarded in 1776 to George Washington; in 2003 one was awarded to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The Carnegie Medal, another honour for civilians, is given to people who have saved, or tried to save, somebody’s life. On the medal is a sentence from the Bible: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

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Universalium. 2010.

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