Our country’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor serves to recognize valor in combat. Since it was enacted into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,517 recipients, with just one female recipient: Dr. Mary Walker. The highest number of Medal of Honor recipients served during the United States Civil War, followed by those who fought in the Second World War. Currently, there are 63 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.  

Being awarded the Medal of Honor requires extraordinary bravery and achievement. Every single recipient has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Here are profiles of just a few of these exceptional individuals.  

Dr. Mary Walker: The Only Female Medal of Honor Recipient  

In 1855, when 23-year-old Mary Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College, she was one of the very few female doctors in the country. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Dr. Walker wanted to help the war effort and volunteered to serve as a physician. She was rejected because of her gender but forged ahead, serving in various roles including assistant surgeon and field surgeon as an unpaid volunteer. She treated casualties in Virginia in December of 1862 and later on in Tennessee. By September 1863, Dr. Walker was appointed assistant surgeon in the Army of the Cumberland. In April of 1864, she was captured by Confederate troops and held for four months. Later that same year, Dr. Walker was granted a contract to be an acting assistant surgeon. President Andrew Johnson recognized her service with a Medal of Honor, which she wore proudly for the rest of her life, despite it being revoked by the government in 1916 (along with others’) upon review of their qualifications. President Jimmy Carter officially reinstated it for her in 1977.  

Daniel Daly: Thrice Recommended for a Medal of Honor  

A member of the Marine Corps, Daniel Daly received his first Medal of Honor in August 1900 for meritorious conduct during the Battle of Peking (China). Daly was recognized with a second Medal of Honor for his service as a gunnery sergeant in Haiti in 1915, when he showed “exceptional gallantry against heavy odds.” During the First World War, Daly again showed bravery by rescuing wounded troops during the Battle of Belleau Wood and single-handedly charging into enemy fire. Although he was recommended for what would have been his third Medal of Honor, he received the Distinguished Service Cross instead. 

Christopher Andrew Celiz: Bravery in Afghanistan 

Sergeant First Class Christopher Andrew Celiz received a posthumous Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while engaged with the enemy in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, on July 12th, 2018.” Sgt. Celiz, as a member of the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, showed extraordinary bravery by exposing himself to enemy fire, first to retrieve and deploy a heavy weapon system, and later to enable the safe departure of a medical evacuation helicopter carrying a casualty and crew. Those heroic and selfless acts cost Celiz his life.  

Every deserving Medal of Honor recipient performed heroically and beyond the call of duty. You can learn more about these extraordinary individuals by visiting Stories Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor on the Library of Congress website. 

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