Medals are a pretty common way to pay tribute to a soldiers commitment, will, and actions during war time. The Air Force is very good about giving out what we refer to as Awards & Decs - or Awards and Decorations.
NATO is similar. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has medals of their own - of which I am now a recipient.
Looking back at history, there have been some pretty amazing people that have received this award. And looking at who pinned my medal on, Major General Kevin Kennedy, I'm very proud to be wearing it.
A pretty cool ceremony as well. We (those of us receiving the medal) were lined up in formation. We were there just about an hour early to get ready, and there was every nation in NATO present - I was next to a USAF Lt. on one side, and a German Major on the other. In front of me was a USA sergeant - but all around were folks from the Netherlands, Romania, Italy, Great Briton, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Norway. . . just everywhere you can think of.
The whole "medal parade" was being run by the camp Sergeant Major - who is Dutch, so when the Generals arrived (6 of them) and the procession started, and we were introduced to the COMISAF - General McNeil, the Dutch national anthem played. The Generals then went down the lines and pinned the medals on us.
I enjoy the pomp and circumstance of military processions sometimes. This was one of them. A very cool experience.