Highlights 2012

Hero Summit: Military Decorations and Medals Decoded (Photos)

See the meanings behind the military medals that graced the stage at The Daily Beast's confab.

The Hero Summit featured some of the military’s most highly decorated elites. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, Medal of Honor winner Alfred Rascon and more took the stage to share their experiences at the summit, each with an array of awards emblazoned across their uniforms. But what do these honors mean? From the Legion of Merit to the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, find out how the best of the best earned the medals pinned across their chests.

Scott Henrichsen

Navy Admiral William McRaven

In one of the first public comments from an elite U.S. military leader on the Petreaus affair, Admiral McRaven praised the general at the summit as “an American hero.” As the man who commanded and devised the raid that ultimately killed Osama bin Laden, McRaven’s military decorations are numerous and include:

• The Special Warfare insignia, a.k.a “The Budweiser,” given to U.S. Navy SEALs. It sits above his medals on his uniform, gleaming in gold.
• The United States Special Operations Command Badge, given to individuals for outstanding contributions to special operations. McRaven wears it below his breast pocket.
• 24 medals, including the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Legion of Merit medal (with one award gold star, meaning he was awarded the medal a second time), the Meritorious Service medal (with three gold stars), and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat-related military award.

Christina Kelly / Wikipedia

U.S. Navy Veteran Eric Greitens

Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens came to the Hero Summit to talk about creative ways for veterans to keep serving after they’re sent home. The former Rhodes Scholar’s military awards include:

• The Purple Heart, given to those wounded or killed during service.
• The Bronze Star Medal, awarded for meritorious service in a combat zone. The red, white, and blue ribbon sits above his other medals.
• The Joint Service Commendation Medal, given for senior service on a joint military staff. Its ribbon is blue, white, and green and sits at the end of his second row of medals.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Alfred Rascon

Vietnam War veteran Alfred Rascon’s uniform is so decorated it’s a wonder he doesn’t tip forward while standing. The former army medic mused during the summit that Petraeus was right to step down, saying, “You’re a leader. You lead by example.” The veteran’s awards include:

• The Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration, given to him for selflessly using his own body to shield his patients from bullets and grenades near Long Khanh Province. (He has also been awarded a Purple Heart). The blue-ribboned medal is draped around his neck.
• The Silver Star, the third highest military award for demonstrations of valor.
• A silver-winged Master Parachutist Badge, worn above his right breast pocket.
• The Combat Medical Badge, worn on the left side of his left breast pocket. This is given to any Army medic who serves during active ground combat.

Scott Henrichsen

Chief Warrant Officer Erik Sabiston and Sargeant Julia Anne Bringloe

Sabiston and Bringloe, both members of the Army’s heroic DUSTOFF 73 helicopter medevac crew, relived their experiences at the summit and talked about how they manage their fears. Both crew members are the recipients of:

• The Distinguished Flying Cross medal, given to those who distinguish themselves by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” The red, white, and blue ribbons sit in their topmost rows of medals.
• A Combat Medical Badge, the same that Alfred Rascon was awarded. Bringloe wears hers above her other medals.
• Army Aviation badges (or “Wings”), awarded to crew members who serve aboard military aircraft. It is also worn above the rows of medals.

Virginia Mayo / AP Photo

General John Allen

Four-star Marine Corps general John Allen also became ensnared in the Petraeus scandal. But before he was thrust into the spotlight, he earned dozens of medals and badges, some of which can be seen here, including:

• Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge, worn on his left breast pocket.
• A Legion of Merit medal with three service stars; a Navy and Marine Corp commendation medal with three service stars; a Defense Distinguished Service medal; and the Defense Superior Service medal.
• A Rifle Qualification badge (hanging from the top-right side of his left breast pocket) and a Pistol Qualification badge (on the top-left side of his left breast pocket.)