Legion of Merit

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The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The decoration is issued both to United States military personnel and to military and political figures of foreign governments. The Legion of Merit (Commander degree) is one of only two United States military decorations to be issued as a neck order (the other being the Medal of Honor) and the only United States decoration which may be issued in award degrees (much like an order of chivalry or certain Orders of Merit).[1][2]

The Legion of Merit is sixth in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations, and is worn after the Defense Superior Service Medal and before the Distinguished Flying Cross. In contemporary use in the U.S. armed forces, the Legion of Merit is typically awarded to Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force general officers and colonels, and Navy and Coast Guard flag officers and captains occupying command or very senior staff positions in their respective services. It may also be awarded to officers of lesser rank and senior enlisted personnel, but these instances are less frequent and circumstances vary by service. The medal can be considered as "points" in some promotion systems, such as the Air Force, where it is counted as 7 points (out of a possible 25 points for decorations).

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Criteria

  • The degrees of Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire are awarded only to members of armed forces of foreign nations under the criteria outlined in US Army Regulation 672-7 and is based on the relative rank or position of the recipient as follows:
  • When the Legion of Merit is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States it is awarded without reference to degree. The criteria are "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements". Additional awards of the Legion of Merit are denoted by oak leaf clusters, in the Army and Air Force, and by award stars in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The sea services also permit the wearing of the Valor device on the Legion of Merit, while the Army and Air Force do not.
  • The performance must have been such as to merit recognition of key individuals for service rendered in a clearly exceptional manner.
  • Performance of duties normal to the grade, branch, specialty or assignment, and experience of an individual is not an adequate basis for this award.
  • For service not related to actual war the term “key individual” applies to a narrower range of positions than in time of war and requires evidence of significant achievement.
  • In peacetime, service should be in the nature of a special requirement or of an extremely difficult duty performed in an unprecedented and clearly exceptional manner.
  • However, justification of the award may accrue by virtue of exceptionally meritorious service in a succession of important positions.
  • The degrees and the design of the decoration were clearly influenced by the French Légion d'honneur.

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