What Are Army Ribbons and Medals?


Quick Answer

Army ribbons and medals are awards given for accomplishments and meritorious service. Awards for service often take the form of rectangular colored ribbons to be slotted into a display panel on the uniform, while awards for specific achievements may involve a physical medal as well as a service ribbon. Depending on the uniform and occasion, soldiers may display ribbons or medals or may be prohibited from showing either.

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What Are Army Ribbons and Medals?
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Full Answer

Most medals take the form of a metal medallion suspended from a short, colored ribbon and are pinned to the uniform breast. Each has an equivalent service ribbon for those occasions when full metals are prohibited, and these ribbons share the color scheme of the suspension ribbon. Lesser awards forgo the medallion, existing only as rectangular service ribbons.

Service ribbons are displayed on the uniform according to a specific scheme, with more prestigious awards taking precedence over lesser ones, and medals received for individual service taking precedence over unit awards. The highest award is the Medal of Honor, followed by the Distinguished Service Cross or Medal and the Silver Star. Others include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart for being wounded in action and Meritorious Service and Achievement awards. The lowest medals on the list are typically those given for service in a particular theater of war.

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