Legion of Merit, Legionnaire (Engraved)
Image courtesy of eMedals.com
Image courtesy of eMedals.com
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The Legion of Merit was established by President Franklin Roosevelt by Act of Congress on July 20, 1942. The Legion of Merit is the second highest American award for service and achievement and the first American decoration awarded to citizens of other nations. It is the only award in the world in which higher grades are not awarded to citizens of the country of origin of the award. Until 1943, the Decoration was awarded by the President of the United States. However, between 1943 and 1955, it was awarded by the War Department, and since 1953, it has been awarded by general and flag Officers of the Lieutenant General or Vice Admiral level or above. The Legion of Merit was created as an award to honour foreign military personnel without diluting the significance of the Distinguished Service Medal as well as to recognize members of the United States Armed Forces for a wide range of outstanding contributions made to America's war efforts. The award is presented to personnel of the Armed Forces of both the United States and friendly foreign nations for exceptionally distinguished and meritorious service. It is most often awarded to personnel occupying senior positions, however, warrant officers and enlisted men may also be eligible for the award. Since 1957, exceptional meritorious service in a sustained period of difficult and increasingly important duty positions during peace-time has also been eligible for the award. Following the end of the Vietnam War, the Decoration has often been awarded upon retirement, with such instances constituting a majority of all awards of the Legion of Merit. The Legion of Merit is awarded in 4 grades to foreigners but is awarded to American citizens without reference to a grade.
The Legion of Merit's motto is "Annuit Coeptis" which translates to "He (God) has Favoured our Undertakings."
Bronze or silver oak leaf emblems are worn on the ribbon to denote additional awards for Army and Airforce personnel while gold or silver stars emblems are worn on the ribbon to denote additional awards to the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard personnel may also wear a bronze emblem in the shape of a "V" on the ribbon to denote awards made in recognition of valour.
The Legionnaire grade is presented to other foreign military personnel who have demonstrated exceptional and distinguished meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States. The Legionnaire's Badge is also awarded to United States citizens in recognition of meritorious service that goes beyond the performance of normal duties and is recognized by significant individuals. During peacetime, the range of persons deemed significant is narrowed and the service must be performed in an unprecedented and exceptional manner. The Legionnaire's Badge is similar to the Officer's badge, but it does not feature a ribbon emblem.
The Legionnaire's Badge features a reverse Latin inscription of the Legion of Merit's motto and the date of America's first decoration, the Purple Heart (1782).
There may be additional versions of the Legionnaire's Badge which vary by composition.
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