The medal may be awarded for Valor (ie courage under fire), in which case it is accompanied with an attached V or it may be awarded for Meritorious Achievement (ie doing one's job well) in which case the medal does not have a valor component and does not have an attached V denoting Valor. Most of the bronze stars awarded are for non valor and do not have the V device.
The medal is awarded to a member of the military who, while serving in or with the military of the United States after 6 December 1941, distinguished him- or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
Awards may be made for acts of heroism, performed under circumstances described above, which are of lesser degree than required for the award of the Silver Star. Awards may also be made to recognize single acts of merit or meritorious service. The required achievement or service while of lesser degree than that required for the award of the Legion of Merit must nevertheless have been meritorious and accomplished with distinction.
To be eligible for the Bronze Star Medal, a military member must be receiving hostile fire/imminent danger pay during the event for which the medal is to be awarded.
As of 30 October 2000 , the Bronze Star Medal may not be awarded to Department of the Army civilians.
The Bronze Star Medal is typically referred to by its full name (including the word "Medal") to differentiate the decoration from bronze service stars which are worn on campaign medals and service awards.