Getting Your Medals - By: Dave Holdorf

There have been many inquiries about the service medals a veteran can or should display. As most veterans have been out of the service for many years, this information can be hard to find. It is easy to find information on the Internet regarding the subject, but any of this information can be incorrect. If any, the information found at genuine U.S. Government military web sites would tend to be the most believable.

Types of medals can be broken down into a few categories:

1.) "Personal/Individual" awards/medals awarded you are usually found listed in box # 24 on your DD-214 discharge form. Unit Commanders recommend awards, award clerks add DD-214 information. Items may include "badges" for various qualifications such as sharp-shooter, mechanic, various driver, airborne, infantry, etc. Other medals/awards could include various individual types such as Purple Heart, Silver/Bronze Stars, Army Commendation, Air Medal, overseas bars ( one each six months ), years of service hash-marks ( one = three years, not listed on DD-214 ), etc. Vietnam Medals "should" be at least National Defense Service, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign, and Good Conduct Medal.

2.) "Unit Citations" awarded to the unit you were in during the prescribed periods designated. They would include RVN Gallantry Cross w/Palm. This type is awarded by government decree, as the RVN awarded to US units in Vietnam. Information on these types of awards normally have documentation that can be very hard to find.

3.) "Commemorative Medals" struck ( issued ) to honor various wars, time periods, and honorable military services. These include Republic of Vietnam Defense 1960-1975, Army Commemorative 1775-2000, Cold War Victory Commemorative 2 Sep.1945 - 26 Dec. 1991 ( you can apply for a certificate ).

4.) "Others Medals" can include various foreign country medals awarded to individuals or units while serving in those countries. Information on these are also hard to find to confirm correct protocol.

Some information can be found in catalogs and on web sites, but is not clear. While medal companies claim that you can display some of these, they do not appear to offer documentation of awarding those from foreign governments. Be sure to see the D.O.D. webpage titled "Manual of Military Decorations and Awards" at:

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