Order of the Kentucky Colonel
Understanding the Order
The prestigious Order of the Kentucky Colonel is the oldest, highest distinguished order of merit and recognition that can be awarded to a civilian in the United States, it has been awarded by Kentucky Governors of the Commonwealth since 1815. Today it is awarded to noteworthy individuals that are nominated by holders of the "honorable" title and the public. To be designated to the order a person must demonstrate strong moral character and be noteworthy for having accomplished a good deed or service to community that deserves the recognition of the Governor of Kentucky.
Realizing the Commission
Only the serving Governor or the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky can designate who will be recognized based on nominations made by other Kentucky colonels that were ordered (commissioned) already, his/her own personal recognition of an individual for their noteworthiness or based on letters written by Kentucky citizens or government officials that warrant attention and recognition.
Once a person is distinguished with an order it is for "life" as a recognition in full regard. An "Order" is not an organization, but a "title" under a "commission" as is the case for the Order of the Kentucky Colonel. -Wikipedia
Wikipedia also says: "An order is a visible honor awarded by a sovereign state, monarch, dynastic royal house or organization to a person, typically in recognition of individual merit, that often comes with distinctive insignia such as collars, medals, badges, and sashes worn by recipients.
In another section it says: "A state order, or national order, is an order bestowed by a sovereign nation or state as part of an honors and recognition system. These orders, conferred for the merit of the recipient(s), are typically categorized as either orders of chivalry or orders of merit."
The Order of the Kentucky Colonel (Commission or Title) should not be confused with The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, Inc. (est. 1932), which is a private non-profit charitable organization focused on developing their "Good Works Fund" in Kentucky; their organization operates a donorship program, raises funds for charity, and sell gifts (memorabilia) from their website to those who have been commissioned to the "Order of the Kentucky Colonel" whom are all invited to participate in the activities they promote.
About the Order
The Order of the Kentucky Colonel is one of the greatest accolades of honor and distinction in the United States, it holds a rich history of evolution and tradition which stands apart from all others. It began as a special rank in the Kentucky Militia, evolving to the ideal of a Southern gentleman, finally to become the highest civilian honor resulting in the designation of "goodwill ambassador" for the Commonwealth. The order is often misunderstood today as a military order; whereas in reality is a state order, an order of merit, and a civil order.
Recipients who receive and accept the Order of the Kentucky Colonel are expected to live up to the honorary recognition reciprocally by being a model citizen that is considerate, fair, generous, kind, and understanding. Those distinguished are entitled to use "Honorable" or "Colonel" before their birth name in civil society and daily life; through the issuance of letters patent they can legally represent the state as its official goodwill ambassadors and are permitted to perpetuate the order by nominating others that they recognize for their deeds and noteworthy accomplishments.
Those designated as Kentucky colonels should be aware that the recognition of calling themselves Colonel preceding their name should only be done when inside Kentucky, otherwise it could be confused with a military colonel in another state or jurisdiction. It is recommended that the title be used more literally in its presentation outside of the state by using "Kentucky Colonel" following their name or preceding it, or more appropriately "Ambassador" or "Goodwill Ambassador" to be recognized under diplomatic law. We should not want to see Kentucky colonels wrongfully accused of impersonating a military officer.
Entitlements of Letters Patent
Legitimately because of the wording and presentation the certificate is a form of "letters patent" that can be presented diplomatically to another head of state in representation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Symbolically it identifies the "Colonel" as an "Aide-in-Camp" to the Kentucky Militia that has been commissioned as an honorary lifetime representative of the Commonwealth acting as a "goodwill ambassador" from the state, designated under one of its Governors.
Letters patent is not diplomatic exequatur, but it is permission to represent Kentucky customs, traditions and values through the honor of a colonelship commission as a goodwill ambassador. Most persons sent by the Governor outside the state are eligible to become Kentucky colonels before or after they are dispatched, some are also recognized as "Ambassador" such as it was under Governor Martha Collins, we know of several who have received this designation.
Other states offer awards, honors and titles for their model citizens and for heroic acts as well, it is debatable as to whether they can all be considered to be "letters patent" unless they are employed as such in law, many are not issued as an order understanding a commission, but as a single award of merit.
Most of the awards given by other states and most nations are given similarly as orders of merit, some military orders and others are official state orders issued by the head of state.
The Order of the Kentucky Colonel represents a civil award and decoration, it is not a chivalric, dynastic, fraternal or religious order. People are not named to become a Kentucky Colonel as a novelty, but as an honor in recognition of a notable deed; however while there is some fun that may found in the ideal of being a Kentucky colonel among friends relative to the Southern gentleman style and the world-famous Col. David Harland Sanders' (founder of KFC) in his expression of a Kentucky Colonel, who became one and used the title 120 years after it was established by the state.