Military Wiki

Inter-service decorations of the United States military are military awards that are issued by the U.S. Armed Forces to members of all five branches of military service. Such medals are thus considered "inter-service" and are awarded under the same criteria to all military branches.


The first inter-service medal to be created was the World War I Victory Medal. This was followed by the Purple Heart[1] and the Silver Star,[2] established in 1932 by a General Order of the Department of the Army. In 1942, the United States Navy authorized the issuance of these two medals to members of the Navy and United States Marine Corps.[3][4] Prior to this time, several older service medals had been issued both to the Army and Navy, but in different versions for each service. The World War I Victory Medal, Silver Star, and Purple Heart were thus the first medals which appeared identical, regardless of which service was bestowing the award.

The next inter-service medals to be created were the Legion of Merit[5] and the Air Medal. By the end of World War II, several Second World War campaign medals had also been established for issuance to both Army and Navy personnel. The United States Coast Guard also received such decorations under the authority of the Department of the Navy.

The Korean Service Medal[6] was the first inter-service decoration which was issued to all five branches of the U.S. military as, by the time frame of the Korean War, the United States Air Force had been established as a separate branch of service. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States Armed Forces began creating several more campaign medals and service awards, all of which could be issued to every branch of the military.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States Department of Defense began creating a series of peacetime meritorious awards which were eligible for presentation to any military member working in a joint command or under the authority of the Secretary of Defense. The last such medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, was created in 1983. The only inter-service unit decoration, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award was created in 1981.[7][8]

On April 5, 2011, President Barack Obama amended Executive Order 12824 modifying the award eligibility of the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal to "any member of the Armed Forces of the United States" making it an inter-service decoration of the U.S. military. Recently, this award has been given to Gen Craig R. McKinley (USAF) for his service as Chief of the National Guard Bureau.[9][10]

The Medal of Honor, while technically an inter-service decoration, is issued in different versions for each branch of military service. There are presently three versions in existence for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Marines receive the Navy version while a Coast Guard version, which exists in theory, has never been bestowed (the one Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor received the Navy version[11]).

The following are the various military medals of the United States which are considered inter-service. Medals are shown in categories, not in order of precedence for uniform wear.

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor ribbon.svg

Department level military decorations

Defense Distinguished Service Medal Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal Defense Superior Service Medal Defense Meritorious Service Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal Joint Service Achievement Medal
Defense Distinguished Service Medal.png
Dept of Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal.png
Defense Superior Service Medal.png
Defense Meritorious Service Medal.jpg
Joint Service Achievement Medal.jpg
Defense Distinguished Service ribbon.svg
Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal.jpg
US Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg
Defense Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Joint Service Commendation ribbon.svg
Us jointservachiev rib.svg

Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Joint Meritorious Unit Award ribbon.svg

Federal military decorations

Silver Star Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal Air Medal
Us legion of merit legionnaire.png
Bronze Star medal.jpg
Meritorious Service Medal (United States).png
Silver Star ribbon.svg
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Purple Heart BAR.svg
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg

Federal service medals

General service

National Defense
Service Medal
Armed Forces
Expeditionary Medal
Service Medal
Military Oustanding
Volunteer Service Medal
Armed Forces
Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal.jpg
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.png
Humanitarian Service Medal.png
Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, obverse.gif
Armed Forces Service Medal.jpg
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Humanitarian Service ribbon.svg
Outstanding Volunteer Service ribbon.svg
Armed Forces Service Medal ribbon.svg

Reserve and Special service

Armed Forces Reserve Medal Prisoner of War Medal Antarctica Service Medal
Antarctica Service Medal.png
Prisoner of War ribbon.svg

Korean War service

Korean Service Medal Korea Defense Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal.png
Korea Defense Service ribbon.svg

Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and Balkans service

Vietnam Service Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal Kosovo Campaign Medal
Vietnam Service Medal, obverse.gif
Southwest Asia Service Medal.gif
Kosovo Campaign Medal.gif
Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg
Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg

Global War on Terrorism

Afghanistan Campaign Medal Iraq Campaign Medal Global War on Terrorism
Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism
Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal, obverse.jpg
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, obverse.jpg
Afghanistan Campaign ribbon.svg
Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg

See also


  1. "PURPLE HEART (Background.c.)",The Institute of Heraldry,
  2. "The United States of America: Silver Star",Medals of the World,
  3. "PURPLE HEART (Background.d.)",The Institute of Heraldry,
  4. "SILVER STAR (Background.c.)",The Institute of Heraldry,
  5. "LEGION OF MERIT",The Institute of Heraldry,
  6. "The United States of America: Korea Service Medal",Medals of the World,
  7. "Joint Meritorious Unit Award",
  8. "JOINT MERITORIOUS UNIT AWARD",Headquarters United States European Command,
  9. "Executive Order 13569--Amendments to Executive Orders 12824, 12835, 12859, and 13532, Reestablishment Pursuant to Executive Order 13498, and Revocation of Executive Order 13507". U.S. Department of Defense. 5 April 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  10. "Panetta hosts Chief Change for National Guard Bureau". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  11. "Douglas Albert Munro, USCG",

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