There are many different ribbons that are awarded to men and women of the United States armed forces. Some of these are not common to see on a rack. These are the highest honors that can be achieved, and therefore likely some of the thin ribbons for military you will rarely see.
Medal Of Honor Ribbon
The Medal Of Honor, otherwise known as the Congressional Medal Of Honor, is the single highest award that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States military forces.
The medal was established in 1861 under the direction of President Abraham Lincoln. The Medal Of Honor ribbon is a light blue bar with five white stars across it.
The award has been bestowed upon around 3,500 recipients since it’s first award, and over 600 service members have been posthumously given the honor. It is given to those who distinguish themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty”, according to the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32 Section 578.4.
Distinguished Service Cross Ribbon
The Distinguished Service Cross is an award given to members of the United States Army for acts of bravery above and beyond that don’t qualify for a Medal Of Honor. It is the second highest honor awarded to the men and women of the Army.
Established in January 1918 by direction of the president Woodrow Wilson, it has been given to over 13 thousand members of the Army, and is still being awarded today. The ribbon bears a blue bar with red and white stripes on either end. In order of precedence, it will only be placed second to a Medal Of Honor.
Navy Cross Ribbon
The Navy Cross ribbon is a navy blue ribbon, with a white bar in the middle. Almost 7 thousand members of the Navy and Marine Corps have been awarded the honor since its inception in February 1918, under President Wilson.
It is awarded to those in the Navy and Marine Corps who show bravery and valor beyond the call of duty, yet not qualifying for the Medal Of Honor. Navy Admiral John S. McCain Sr., The father of the late Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain was a recipient of the award. As well as James Roosevelt II, the son of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his capacity as a Marine Corps officer.
Air Force Cross Ribbon
The second highest honor that can be given to a member of the United States Air Force, and now also the Space Force, is the Air Force Cross. The ribbon is a grey bar with white and red stripes on either end.
First awarded January 8th, 1964 to Major Rudolph Anderson Jr. posthumously for his acts of bravery during the Cuban Missile Crisis, there have only been around 200 awarded to date, with 50 awards to service members posthumously.
Silver Star Medal Ribbon
The third highest award that can be bestowed upon a United States service member is the Silver Star. which replaced the Citation Star in 1932. It is awarded to those who exhibit a level of bravery in actions against enemies of the United States past regular service duties.
Between 100 and 150 thousand service members have been given this honor since the inception of its predecessor in July 1918, which had retroactive and posthumous awardings dating back to April 1861. The ribbon bears a red bar in the center with alternating white and blue bars on either side.
Military Medals and Their Meanings
When someone receives an honor of their service in the military, it brings with it a sense of pride. A pride in knowing that they went above and beyond protecting the freedoms every American enjoys every day.
Next time you get the opportunity to talk with a veteran, pay attention to the ribbons on their coats. The stories those ribbons tell are an epic tale the likes of Homer’s “Odyssey”. Tales of bravery and valor worthy of white knights in fairy tales.
Yet, these are everyday Americans who answered that call. And they earned the ribbons they wear with pride. For that, we owe them our gratitude.