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National Defense Service Medal
The obverse view of the medal shows the American bald eagle, perched on a sword and palm. Above this, in a semicircle, is the inscription National Defense.
National Defense Service Medal
Awarded by United States
Type Service medal
Eligibility Member of the United States Armed Forces during qualifying periods of national emergency
Awarded for Military service during periods of national emergency
Campaign Korean War; Vietnam War; Persian Gulf War; Global War on Terrorism
Status Active

Obverse: Shows the American bald eagle, perched on a sword and palm. Above this, in a semicircle, is the inscription "National Defense".
Reverse: Shows a shield, taken from the Coat of Arms of the United States; it is half encircled below with an open wreath, the right side of oak leaves and laurel leaves the left.

Ribbon: The ribbon has a wide yellow stripe in the center, flanked by narrow stripes of red, white, blue, white and wide red stripes.
Clasps Service star for subsequent awards
Established Executive Order 10448, April 22, 1953 (as amended by E.O. 11265, January 11, 1966; E.O. 12776, October 8, 1991; E.O. 13293, March 28, 2003.
First awarded June 27, 1950 – July 27, 1954 (Korean War)
Last awarded September 11, 2001 – present (War on Terrorism)
Next (higher) Navy: Navy Occupation Service Medal
Marine Corps: Navy Occupation Service Medal
Army: Army of Occupation Medal
Air Force: Medal for Humane Action[1]
Coast Guard: Navy Occupation Service Medal
Next (lower) Korean Service Medal
Related Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Streamer NDS.PNG
Ribbon & Streamer for the National Defense Service Medal

The National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) is a military service medal of the United States Armed Forces originally commissioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Created in 1953, the National Defense Service Medal was intended to be a "blanket campaign medal" awarded to any member of the United States Armed Forces who served honorably during a designated time period of which a "national emergency" had been declared.

As of 2010, with an issuance span of sixty years, the National Defense Service Medal is the oldest service medal still being awarded by the United States Armed Forces, followed second by the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal which has been awarded since 1961. Combat and meritorious decorations (such as the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Purple Heart and Commendation Medals) are older still, but are considered personal decorations and are classified under separate award criteria from service medals.

Eligible periods

In the years since the creation of the National Defense Service Medal, it is authorized only for the following time periods:[2]

Korean War June 27, 1950 – July 27, 1954
Vietnam War January 1, 1961 – August 14, 1974
Persian Gulf War August 2, 1990 – November 30, 1995
Global War on Terrorism September 11, 2001 – present

Award criteria

The National Defense Service Medal is awarded to anyone who serves on active duty in the United States military during the above time periods.[3]

For service in the Gulf War, members of the military Reserve (in good standing) or National Guard were initially awarded the NDSM when called to active duty service, but this was later expanded to include all members of the Reserve or National Guard in good standing on the Reserve Active Status List (or equivalent) during the eligibility period.

For service in the War on Terrorism, Selected Reserve and National Guard members need only to have been in good standing to receive the NDSM, and no active duty service is required.[4] Inactive Ready Reserve and Retired Reserve are not eligible to be awarded the NDSM unless called to active duty.

The National Defense Service Medal is authorized to Cadets and Midshipmen at the service academies after they are sworn into service, as well as pre-commission officer candidates/trainees at the Officer Candidate Schools or Officer Training Schools of the various U.S. services; but is not granted to discharged or retired veterans who did not serve in one of the above time periods; nor is it authorized for Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets and Midshipmen at colleges and universities who enlisted in the inactive reserve (i.e., Obligated Reserve Section or ORS) during qualifying periods.

The National Defense Service Medal ranks eleventh out of twenty-nine in the order of precedence of service medals. There is no time requirement for the medal's issuance, meaning that someone who joins the military for simply a few days, and then receives an entry level discharge, would technically be entitled to the NDSM; in practice, however, military clerks will not add the NDSM on a DD Form 214 if the service member performed duty for less than 90 days from the completion of their initial entry training. This accounts for the medal's omission from a large number of "uncharacterized" and "entry level" separation documents. Veterans who have this medal so omitted may apply to the military service departments to have the NDSM added to records via a DD Form 215.[5]

Multiple awards

Multiple awards of the National Defense Service Medal are authorized for members of the military who served in more than one of the eligible time periods; such additional awards are denoted by service stars. A second award of the medal is not granted for reenlisting during the same time period or transferring between branches of service.[6]

First award: service ribbon with no service stars.
Second award: service ribbon with one service star.
Bronze star
Third award: service ribbon with two service stars (sequence continues).
Bronze star
Bronze star



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