USA Military Awards

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Military awards and decorations are distinctions given as a mark of honor for militaryheroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement.[1] A decoration is often a medal consisting of a ribbon and a medallion.

Wall of Medals in the French Foreign Legion Museum

While the United States Government does not consider all its military awards and medals as being “decorations”, other countries tend to refer to all their military awards and medals as “decorations”. Civil decorations awarded to military personnel should not be considered military decorations, although some orders of chivalry have civil and military divisions. Decorations received by police and fire brigade personnel may sometimes be considered alongside military decorations, on which they may be modelled, although they are strictly not military awards.


Medals have been forged by many people to make the medal appear more valuable or to make one look like a more decorated soldier. Medal forgeries can include: adding bars, engraving a famous soldier’s name on it or creating a whole new medal. Medal forgery is illegal in most countries and can be punishable by imprisonment.

Contemporary use

Current Joint Chief of Staff(Former U.S Army Chief of Staff) Mark A. Milley wearing a number of military decorations.

Today military decorations include:

  • Order of merit;
  • Bravery awards, in the form of a cross, star or medal on a ribbon;
  • Distinguished service awards, in the form of a cross, star or medal on a ribbon;
  • Campaign medals worn on a ribbon;
  • Service medals worn on a ribbon;
  • Awards for entire units, in the form of Battle honours, Campaign streamers, Fourragères, or unit citations.

In most NATO militaries, only the service ribbons are normally worn on everyday occasions (as opposed to the actual medals).

See also

  • List of military decorations
  • List of highest military decorations
  • Civil decoration
  • State decoration
  • Neck decoration
  • Commonwealth Realms orders and decorations
  • Awards and decorations of the United States military
  • Awards and decorations of the Russian Federation
  • Awards and decorations of the Soviet Union
  • Israeli Military decorations
  • Orders, decorations, and medals of Spain
  • Awards and decorations of the German Armed Forces
  • Orders, decorations, and medals of the United Kingdom
  • Medal inflation

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