Recognize a Scout’s heroic actions with one of three awards

How the BSA recognizes attempts to save a life.

Scouts learn how to save a life with Scouting skills. When the training gets put to use, the BSA offers a trio of awards for heroism. 

WHAT AWARDS DOES THE BSA PRESENT FOR HEROISM? Three awards are available to those who demonstrate heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life: the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, the Honor Medal, and the Heroism Award.

WHAT’S THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THESE AWARDS? The Honor Medal with Crossed Palms recognizes actions that involve extreme risk to self. The Honor Medal recognizes actions that involve some risk to self. The Heroism Award recognizes actions that involve minimum risk to self; however, the Scout must put into practice Scouting skills and/or ideals.

HOW DOES THE BSA DEFINE ‘HEROISM’ AND ‘SKILL’? “Heroism” is defined as exhibiting courage, daring, skill, and self-sacrifice. “Skill” is defined as using one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance of an action.

HOW RARE ARE THESE AWARDS? In 2011, the BSA awarded 13 Honor Medals with Crossed Palms, 31 Honor Medals, and 121 Heroism Awards.

MUST THE ATTEMPT TO SAVE A LIFE BE SUCCESSFUL? No, the awards recognize the attempt.


WHAT ABOUT FAMILY MEMBERS OR SIBLINGS OF SCOUTS OR SCOUTERS? No, the recognitions are reserved for registered members.

WHAT ABOUT SCOUTERS WHO ARE TRAINED FIRST RESPONDERS? Lifesaving actions performed as part of the duty of a trained lifesaver—such as a doctor or nurse—will not be considered. However, some situations—say, when a doctor is off duty and uses his skills to save a life—may qualify.



HOW CAN I NOMINATE SOMEONE? The Lifesaving or Meritorious Action Award nomination form can be found at

Contact your council advancement committee or volunteer recognition committee. That committee must investigate the case, interview the principals and witnesses, secure signed statements, and make a recommendation within 30 days of the recommendation.

WHAT IF WITNESSES ARE NOT AVAILABLE? No nomination form should be forwarded without a signed statement from the applicant and at least one eyewitness.


IS THERE A DEADLINE FOR MAKING A NOMINATION? No application may be considered after a lapse of six months from the incident without a written explanation from the Scout executive or adviser to the council committee. No application may be considered after a lapse of 12 months of the incident.

WHAT RECOGNITION ITEMS ARE AVAILABLE? (See photo above.) Recipients of the Honor Medal receive a medal with a red ribbon and pendant, as well as an embroidered red knot on a tan background (No. 05010). A small metal device indicates that the medal was earned with crossed palms. Recipients of the Heroism Award receive a medal with a white and red ribbon and pendant, as well as an embroidered red knot on white twill (No. 05020). The medals are worn above the left uniform pocket on formal occasions; the square knots are sewn above the left pocket for everyday wear.


  1. for the heroism the one with the white and red ribbon do you have to save someones life of could you show a geat act of courtesy and the meaning of scouting and can you be nominated by an adult who has nothing to do with scoting but knows what it is

  2. No, that would not be correct…
    1)The Heroism award has been discontinued as of 1/1/13
    2) You did not describe a Life Saving event …so the Medal of Merit, or Certificate of Merit, is more applicable.

  3. I submitted an application for the heroism award for my son in July, 2013, through my local council. I have talked to them weekly since then. They say they submitted it to National but they can’t get a response back. How can I reach the National Council about this application?

  4. How do i nominate my grandson for an award for going for help after my son had a seizure and colapsed in the yaryard and was vomiting and could have died if not for my grandson getting immediate help. My grandson is 10 years old. What kind of award reconition would he be eligible for? My grandson’s name is Bennett Zukas . He lives at 50 Lindsay Lane,Leechburg, Pennsylvania 15656 Please reply to me as soon as possible. Thank you.

  5. My son used his first aid skills and Boy Scout training and saved his friend who is a fellow Boy Scout from bleeding out and dying. The father of the Boy Scout who was saved is nominating my son for Lifesaving and Meritorious Action Award. It took several months to convince my son that he should be nominated. He is very humble and modest. My son believe he didn’t do anything special. He was just “helping his friend” and doing the right thing.

  6. TO correct what Jim Wilson said, you DO NOT have to save a life. You receive this medal for the attempt, even if the victim dies. As long as you made the attempt you may qualify for this medal.


    Honor Medal With Crossed Palms. The Honor Medal With Crossed Palms
    may be awarded in exceptional cases to a youth member or adult leader
    who has demonstrated both unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or
    resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at extreme risk to self.

    Honor Medal. The Honor Medal may be awarded to a youth member or
    adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or
    attempting to save life at considerable risk to self.

  7. Sad to say, more than a year has passed since my son’s incident. He was recognized by his school with a medal, and his troop with a round of applause, but that will suffice.

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