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Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom
SECDEF Medal for the Defense of Freedom.jpg
Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom
Awarded by the Secretary of Defense
Type Medal
Eligibility DoD civilian employee only
Awarded for For exceptional service in the defense of freedom
Status Currently awarded
Established September 27, 2001

The Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom is a decoration established to acknowledge civilian employees of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) who are killed or wounded in the line of duty.


The United States Army’s Institute of Heraldry developed the medal.


The eagle and shield exemplify the principles of freedom on which the United States was founded and the defense of these freedoms. The laurel is emblematic of honor and high achievement.


Red, white, and blue are the national colors of the United States. The red stripes commemorate valor and sacrifice. The wide blue stripe represents strength. The white stripes symbolize liberty. The number of red stripes represents the four terrorist attacks using hijacked airplanes, and the single blue stripe represents the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.


A certificate signed by the Secretary of the Army will accompany the medal.


The medal shall be awarded to any DoD civilian employee meeting the definition of “employee” under title 5 United States Code, Section 2105, and who is eligible for an award under DoD 1400.25-M, Subchapter 451, “Awards,” including employees of non-appropriated fund activities, when killed or wounded by hostile action while serving under any competent authority of the Department under conditions for which a military member would be eligible for receipt of the Purple Heart. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense has discretionary authority to award this medal to non-Defense personnel who are otherwise qualified to be awarded the medal based on their involvement in DoD activities.


Eligibility criteria for the medal are aligned as closely as possible to those for the Purple Heart for members of the United States armed forces; this medal differs from other medals in that it is not “recommended.” The employee is “entitled” to the medal if the employee is eligible under Section 4 and if the conditions or criteria in this paragraph are present. Hostile action may involve, but is not limited to, the use of conventional or nuclear weapons, chemical or biological agents, explosives, or missiles. The medal shall be awarded to employees who are killed or who sustain injury due to hostile action against the United States of America, or killed or wounded while rescuing or attempting to rescue any other employee or individual subjected to injuries sustained under such conditions. The wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by a medical officer, and records of medical treatment for wounds or injuries received in action must have been made a matter of official record.

Limitations on awarding[]

The medal is authorized for the incident of death or the first wound suffered under the conditions indicated above. The medal itself may be awarded only once; however, for subsequent events that would require the award of the medal, a device will be awarded to attach to the ribbon of the medal.

Posthumous awards[]

The medal may be awarded posthumously and, when so awarded, may be presented to a representative of the deceased member’s family.

See also[]


External links[]

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