Military Medals – How to Determine a Veterans Awards

Military Medals – How to Determine a Veterans Awards

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armymedalsbanner1 Military Medals   How to Determine a Veterans Awards

Military Medals

Many veterans and their families are unsure of which military medals they were awarded and often for good reasons. Twenty-five, thirty, even fifty years after military service, it is often difficult to remember or clearly identify the awards a veteran may have earned the right to wear or display. Thousands of veterans have been heard to say “I don’t want any awards I’m not authorized, but I want everything I am authorized.” So the question is, “What are the medals authorized the veteran for his military service during each conflict?”

What happened to the Military Medals?

There are a number of reasons besides the passage of time that veterans are not always sure of their military awards. At the end of World War II many campaign medals had not yet been struck and were only issued as military ribbons due to the restriction on brass and other metals for the war effort. Many unit awards had not yet been authorized and on the whole, most soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen were more interested in going home than they were in their military records. Other changes such as Congress’ decision in the 1947s to authorize a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service to all recipients of the Combat Infantryman and Combat Medical Badge was not well known. Many veterans never realized that they had earned a Bronze Star Medal. Perhaps the most striking example is the recently approved Republic of Korea War Service Medal. The Republic of Korea offered the medal to all U.S. Korean War veterans but it was not accepted by our government until 1999. In other cases, veterans came home and stuffed their medals and awards into a cigar box which usually found its way into the hands of children and these magnificent symbols of valor and service from a grateful nation simply disappeared over time.

Displaying your Military Medals

Today there is a wonderfully renewed interest in wearing and displaying United States military medals, both to honor veterans’ patriotic service and to display a family’s pride in military service. World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans now wear their medals at formal social and patriotic events and a display of military insignia and medals is often in the family home place of honor.

Categories of Military Medals and Awards

As mentioned earlier, military medals and awards are divided into two categories: Decorations awarded for valor or meritorious service and Campaign and Service medals awarded for a particular service or event. Additionally there are Unit Awards which are for unit valor and meritorious service and ribbon-only awards presented for completing special training or recognizing certain service.

Decorations and other types of Military Awards

Decorations are individual awards which are of such singular significance that most veterans and their family will remember when such awards have been presented. Decorations are noted on a veteran’s official discharge papers (called a DD Form 214) as well as published in official unit orders. However there are exceptions, such as the Bronze Star Medal issued for meritorious service after World War II and in some cases Purple Heart medals that were never officially presented. Someone who is unsure if they received a decoration can request the National Records Center in St. Louis or other veterans records holding areas to check their records. Bronze Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Commendation and Achievement military medals are announced in unit orders which are normally found in the individual’s military service record.

Campaign and service military medals, unit awards and ribbon-only awards are more clearly identifiable. The Army for example, has a campaign register which provides a clear indication of which campaign medals, unit awards, campaign stars and foreign unit awards are authorized a particular unit during certain periods of time. To aid in identifying the campaign medals authorized veterans of different conflicts and to show how they can be displayed, United States and Allied campaign military medals authorized since World War II are summarized in our resources section under Medals and Ribbons Order of Precedence Charts.

Military Medals - How to Determine a Veterans Awards, 9.4 out of 10 based on 10 ratings
There are 21 comments for this article
  1. Larrie T. Croteau at 12:10 am
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    My comment is about the authorization of Medals and Commemorative Medals. I have found 12 Medals which I am authorized to recieve, wear and display. I served 3 years in the Army. My first 2 years in the states and my last year in VietNam. The Government should check these things out and award these citations to the Veterans who deserve them.
    I am very proud of the 3 years I spent in the Army. I enlisted. My service to my country was exemplary. I'm 71 years old,
    and am DAV due to Agent Orange. I've gone through Cancer and am a Diabetic, because of it. I'm not complaning, just making a statement.
    I'm quite sure that my family, as well as myself, would be proud to see these awards and decorations both displayed and worn. I have both my fathers and father-in-laws medals, including both of their folded and cased flags.
    Since researching your site I've found these items. My next move is to contact the Department of the Army. I think Vets have waited long enough to collect whats due.

    • Mike West at 9:10 am
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      Mr. Croteau,

      Thank you so much for your service. I thank you from my heart.

      Yours,
      Mike West

    • Corp. A.R. Martinez at 11:15 pm
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      It will sometimes help if you contact your local congressman or woman in my area Los Angeles CA. i have read that our representitive has helped many vet,s with the same problem. Good luck hope this helped you out. Former Corp U.S.M.C. Arnold R . Martinez

  2. William Goward at 8:18 pm
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    I agree as a VietNam usmc veteran My medal,s sat on some desk for years before congress person found them. I missed the personal decoration at a Military base in Mi. because of it. My children had a right to see me decorated with honors guess it just was not important to the gov.My name was read along with 4 others a parade followed but I did show They still owed me metals for things that I did but they just passed me by and awarded others in that mission that brought back 5 men with Gulf-2/5 marines all were died but they went HOME that was reward enough for me along with Purple Heart

  3. DONALD A. OLSON at 1:19 pm
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    I was awarded the COMBAT MEDICS BADGE WHICH IS LISTED ON MY DD214. But I never redcived the Bronze Star, which apparently I was entitled to. What do I need to do? Severa years ago I contacred the Personell Dept. IN ST.louis requesting replacement medals. My originals had been destroyed. How do I go about getting the Bronze Star?

  4. Paul Macuch at 1:22 pm
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    I have gone through the process of writing to St. Louis for my medals and ribbons that I feel that I deserve. They indicated that no additional awards were due based on my DD214. I served in Viet Nam as a Combat Corpsman, with the 1St Battalion 9th Marines, "B" company, 2nd platoon, 3rd Marine Division, in 1966. I did not receive of all things, the" Combat Ribbon". I also feel that I deserve many other ribbons, medals, awards, and commememoratives. What can I do about this situation before I pass on and my family has no idea how I served our Country that Obama is destroying?

  5. W.R. Tuttle, Jr. at 11:23 pm
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    I am trying to gather all medals and citations given to my father for his service in the Army during the conflict in Vietnam. I'm sure he has more than what he personally knows or is able to present. He does however have a Bronze Star on his old ribbon rack but cannot remember if he received one. How might I obtain this information since most items are not listed on his DD214. Any help would greatly be appreciated.

    • S.W Lynch at 6:15 pm
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      Your local VFW can help all you need is your father service number or DD214 they should be able to find out and maybe even get the medals for you.
      Hope this helps.

  6. Kenny Harper at 5:44 pm
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    good luck with the National Archives in St. Louis, Mo. I found awards that were authorized after my discharge and have been fighting with them for 3 years now to update my records and issue a DD-215. I even provided the awards list form the Navy and Marine Corps that shows such awards and to this date still nothing

    • Charles Culton at 12:10 pm
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      I send mine to St. Louis 2 years ago yesterday my dd215 came in the mail it had 7awards plus the ones I already had. It was just a page attach to my dd214 the problem was when I first went to Nam I was 2/27 (Grunt)and after they got wiped out they where send home in Sept of 68 and they went 2/4 and end up and RO for FO in 81's was wounded the 3rd time and send home in May 69 just short 2 months of getting to back to the world keep fighting Marine Semper Fi

  7. Ron Hartman at 6:50 pm
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    National Archives is a waste of time and money,I served in the reserves from 2004 to 2007 and they have no record of it.

  8. Rodney at 7:28 pm
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    Guys hey about your Records in St Louis they suffered a fire in the 90's could have been earlier but a lot of records were burnt up gone forever that is why a lot of records cant be found they had not placed them in computers then on floppy disk and the ones that were burnt up as well on a lot you have to go to Washington DC ,To the Pentagon have them look up your time in the area of which you served then you have to write out what happened again that day in which you were in Battle then I believe they will go over it and decide to get you the Medal Back ..don't hold me to this but it seems the only way to start St Louis is noway abel to do this after that fire…Hope this helps in some way ..

  9. John Banning at 4:16 pm
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    I know that their are Medals that I can wear without orders because I am a Cold War Veteran. How do find Medals that were issued but were never received?

  10. Harve Kimmel at 12:09 pm
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    As a veteran and a Human Resources Manager, I am astounded that some of our employees who served during Viet Nam but did not go to the war zone feel that they did not receive the Campaign Badge. Isn't it true that they received that?

  11. Jay D Levine at 6:10 pm
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    I served in the US Army from 1975 to 1992, I was in Korea and germany and the first Gulf War,After I was Forced out of the service ,I received through the Mail a ARCOM and Later The Kuwait medal from Saudi Arabia and then Later ,Years Later I found out that I was Autorized the Kuwait medal from Kuwait and The Korean Defense Service Medal. How do I get My DD Form 214 updated to reflect this. during Desert Storm I was in 5/3 ADA,8th Inf Div attached to 3/5 ACR 3rd Armored Div.
    In korea I was in 1/9th Infantry 2nd Inf Div Camp Greaves north of the Imjin River.

  12. Cindy at 3:54 pm
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    Hi I am the youngest child of a Korean War Vet. I am trying to identify the ribbons and medals I have as well as see if there are others that are missing. He had a robbery and does not know if he got all of them back or not. How would I find out stuff like that. I googled for the ribbons I have but the info out there is not real helpful. Thanks so much and THANK YOU to each and every veteran who has fought for my country and my freedom. Oh and I don't speak Army or Korean war language LOL. Just an old lady looking to find more information about the medals .

  13. Howard lEE at 8:32 pm
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    The men and women who lost their lives in combat,are the real Heros who desere a decoration for Valor.All are heros .

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