A guide for military ribbons and medals is available online on the Pentagon's website. The guide provides information on military ribbons and medals awarded by both the United States and international organizations.
Military awards are given to individuals who have shown special merit or service to their country's armed forces. They are meant to motivate specific individuals and recognize their deeds. Awarding a medal takes into account the individual's entire time in service. If the service member's conduct has not been honorable up until the distinguished action warranting consideration for a medal, he is not likely to be awarded the medal.