Military awards recognize achievement in or for military service. Most often, they are various distinctive insignia worn on uniform. There may also be designation of honor, such as membership in military orders, which may themselves have their own insignia.
Awards can be individual, or for units. Some may only be worn in designated uniform, others have miniature versions that can be worn with civilian clothing, and some countries' custom include the wearing of the full decoration on civilian clothes.
There is a military custom of evaluating another soldiers by examining their award insignia. If their country presents some awards for true achievement,
While there are innumerable national variations, several broad categories do emerge. Depending on the country, a given award may be available only to officers, only to non-officers, or members of certain specialties. Some awards techically recognize a skill rather than an action, but when it is a respected skill like combat parachuting, qualification badges such as "jump wings" are highly respected.
Awards for Valor
Most countries have a hierarchy of awards; the U.S. term is the Pyramid of Honor; strictly for bravery in combat, some for courageous and effective non-combat activity, and some for valor in general. Depending on the country and award, some may be posthumous awards, either shortly after the individual's death in combat, or when the action is recognized later on.
The prestige of the highest awards is immense, among professional soldiers of multiple nations, even nations at war. It is a U.S. custom, for example, for officers of all ranks to rise and salute first when a wearer of the Medal of Honor, of any rank whatsoever, enters the room.
Other medals of this truly elite level include the British (and Commonwealth equivalent) Victoria Cross for direct combat activity and the George Cross for comparably brave activity in noncombat action, which can be closely related such as explosive ordnance disposal. Hero of the Russian Federation and the earlier Hero of the Soviet Union were usually presented for high valor, although some were given to high commanders.