The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and it's the most prestigious military award presented by the U.S. government to members of the armed forces. Awarded by the president in the name of Congress to recognize acts of valor on the battlefield, more than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen over the years. Since the start of U.S. involvement in World War II, over half of all Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously.
25 American servicemen have received the Medal of Honor since 9/11, 9 of them posthumously. Sergeant First Class Thomas Payne is the most recent recipient and the first American to receive the medal in the fight against ISIS. The Delta Force operator was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during a hostage rescue mission at an ISIS prison compound to prevent 70 captives from being executed. He ran into a collapsing building three times under heavy fire to make sure all the hostages were out and safe. While the prisoners were freed successfully, Delta Force Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed during the operation.
Prior to Thomas Payne, Master Sgt. Matthew Williams was the most recent recipient. Over 10 years ago, he initially earned the Silver Star for saving several of his fellow Green Berets during a long and intense firefight on a mountainside in Afghanistan. The battle saw ten special forces soldiers and their combat cameraman awarded the Silver Star for bravery and the team's medic, Ronald J. Shurer, also saw his Silver Star upgraded to the Medal of Honor.