|Awarded for||Rescuing, or endeavoring to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water.|
|Presented by||United States Coast Guard|
|Established||20 June 1874|
|Total||600+ Gold Lifesaving Medals|
1,900+ Silver Lifesaving Medals
Gold Lifesaving Medal ribbon and Silver Lifesaving Medal ribbon
The Gold Lifesaving Medal and Silver Lifesaving Medal are U.S. decorations issued by the United States Coast Guard. The awards were established by Act of Congress, 20 June 1874; later authorized by 14 U.S.C. § 500. These decorations are two of the oldest medals in the United States and were originally established at the Department of Treasury as Lifesaving Medals First and Second Class. The Department of the Treasury initially gave the award, but today the United States Coast Guard awards it through the Department of Homeland Security. They are not classified as military decorations, and may be awarded to any person.
A British Sea Gallantry Medal for saving life was authorized in 1854. Twenty years later in the United States the Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals were first authorized in an Act (18 Stat 125, 43rd Congress) that furthered the United States Life-Saving Service. The Secretary of the Treasury was directed, among other provisions of the act, to create "medals of honor", to be distinguished as life-saving medals of the first and second class, and bestow them upon any persons who endanger their own lives in saving, or endeavoring to save lives from perils of the sea, within the United States, or upon any American vessel.
The Lifesaving Medals have had multiple designs in their history.
The laws governing the awarding of medal were amended over the years, and is currently awarded by the US Coast Guard. The Commandant of the Coast Guard makes the final determination in authorizing the award, but the Lifesaving Medals are not military awards, per se, and instead are "Federal Agency personal decorations" of the Department of Homeland Security and as such may be awarded to not only military members, but civilians.
"The Gold Lifesaving Medal or the Silver Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water. The rescue or attempted rescue must either take place in waters within the U.S. or subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or one or the other of the parties must be a citizen of the U.S. or from a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by citizens of the U.S."
The Lifesaving Medal is issued in two grades, being gold and silver. "The Gold Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to an individual who performed a rescue or attempted rescue at the risk of his or her own life, and demonstrates extreme and heroic daring. The Silver Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to an individual who performed a rescue or attempted rescue where the circumstances do not sufficiently distinguish the individual to deserve the medal of gold, but demonstrate such extraordinary effort as to merit recognition. If neither the Gold nor Silver Lifesaving Medal is appropriate, then a Certificate of Valor or an appropriate Coast Guard Public Service Award may be considered."
Until the mid-20th century, the Lifesaving Medal was often bestowed upon members of the military; however in recent times the decoration has become somewhat rare. This is due primarily to the creation of a variety of additional military decorations that supplant the Lifesaving Medal. The United States Navy often issues the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, instead of the Lifesaving Medal, for sea rescues involving risk of life. "Military personnel serving on active duty would normally not be recommended for Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals; however, military personnel may be recommended for a Lifesaving Medal if the act of heroism was performed while the individual was in a leave or liberty status. In all other circumstances, a military award should be considered." While the Lifesaving Medals may be proffered to, and accepted by, DoD personnel, the Medals are no longer authorized for wear on U.S. military uniforms of the DoD Services (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Space Force). Such awards may become part of service records, and used for other purposes, however.
The US Coast Guard, while an armed force and military service at all times, normally is part of the Department of Homeland Security. As such, awards of the DHS may be bestowed directly upon civilians, including US Coast Guard civilian employees and contractors, while recommendations for award of the Lifesaving Medals to US military members will be coordinated with the servicemembers' parent Service; this provides not only notification to the relevant military commanders that their servicemember(s) were involved in a lifesaving event, but allows the opportunity for that commander to award a Service decoration such as the Soldier's Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Airman's Medal, or Coast Guard Medal, instead of the DHS-awarded Lifesaving Medals. Within the Coast Guard, as a non-DoD agency, the gold medal's precedence for wear is immediately following the Coast Guard Medal, while the silver medal's precedence for wear is immediately following the Air Medal. However, the appropriate precedence for display -- but not wear -- of the Lifesaving Medals in other Services is among the category of "Federal Agency personal decorations," directly below the Prisoner of War Medal.
The Lifesaving Medal is unusual among U.S. medals because it is actually struck from the eponymous precious metal, silver or gold.
Multiple awards of the Lifesaving Medal are denoted by award stars on the decoration's ribbon and a gold clasp, inscribed with the recipient's name, is worn on the actual medal.
Since 1874, more than 600 Gold Lifesaving Medals and more than 1,900 Silver Lifesaving Medals have been awarded.
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In a dusty glass-fronted case on the piano bench, Skutnik keeps the palm-size Carnegie Medal for heroism and the Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving Medal