Many Service Branches
Many Military Ribbons
With a plethora of military medals, ribbons, and awards, spanning all the United States' service branches, there are literally hundreds of potential candidates for wear and display that a service member may be faced with choosing from. As a deeply engrained element of the United States' military culture and tradition, its no surprise that Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coasties consider the wear and appearance of all elements of their uniforms very highly. Amongst such other elements as uniform insignia, weapons' qualification badges, and special skills badges, the assembly of a military ribbons rack must be done with upmost care and consideration.
Regardless of a service members chosen branch of service, a highly daunting task can be that of determining not only what military ribbons you have been specifically awarded, but, also in what order of precedence these awards must be displayed on your service uniform. While doing this may not be an overly difficult task for a young Private, who has just completed their basic combat training, years in service and overseas tours will naturally qualify a service member for additional ribbons. In some cases, such as "time in service" awards, the service member may not even be completely aware that they have been awarded award.
Determine What Ribbons You Have Been Awarded
Throughout history, the United States' military has been filled with service members who have had different outlooks and approaches to the culture and traditions that they are apart of and have sworn allegiance to. While becoming battle-hardened may cause some to give little recognition to their awards, or discard them along with saying they were "only doing their job", there are other service members who think of their ribbons with great esteem: managing and understanding them in a way that they would positively consider their own military career.
Determining what military ribbons you have been awarded is an easy process, but, some service members just don't know where to look to find this information. Remember, for each ribbon you are awarded, you are also awarded an accompanying medal, which is essentially a larger, expounded, version of the same color pattern found on the ribbon. When presented to a service member (if a particular award is presented. In some cases, it may not be), your military ribbon and accompanying medal will be located jointly in an award display box.
While you may easily remember those that you have been awarded in a public setting, with an audience, you may have absolutely no idea as to what other ribbons and medals you have achieved. In order to find out this information, you can consult your DD-214 paper document. Whenever a service member leaves Active Duty (also known as being "discharged"), whether that duty be overseas or while stationed for training or regular service on the homefront, a DD-214 will be generated for them. Dependent upon your actual time in service, you may require a new DD-214, or for those who have been serving for a very long time, they may only need their DD-214 to be updated. Beyond telling a service member exact information regarding their Active Duty service, you will also be able to find a running consolidated tally of all your military ribbons, medals, and awards on this document.
Your DD-214 should be held on file by your unit of assignment, however, for United States' Soldiers, it can also be personally downloaded from the comfort of your very own home through an online personnel document management system called iPerms.
Just 'Google' It
The advent of free online military ribbon rack builders have made it very easy for service members, from any respective service branch, to easily "check-off" (or input) each of their awarded ribbons, as seen on their DD-214 document. When searched, online you will find that these ribbons rack builders are typically associated with a company that sells military ribbons and medals, or they are associated with a sole proprietor that is a direct affiliate of one of those companies.
You Never Have to Purchase on the Site
When using a free online ribbon rack builder service, regardless of the company or sole proprietor that its development is associated with, it is important to remember that you never are required to actually purchase from one of these sites. In return for providing a free service, of course, it is the hope of the website's owner that you will purchase, however, any service member can also create a print-out of the assembled ribbon rack visual graphic that is provided. With this in hand, you may decide to purchase your ribbons either elsewhere online, or at a military clothing and sales store on base. Of course, for Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers, who may have to drive hours to their nearest base, purchasing from a clothing and sales may not be the most feasible option for them.
Putting it All Together
With your DD-214 and generated ribbon rack visual graphic print-out in hand, you will want to separately purchase each ribbon along with an accompanying military ribbon mounting frame. Whether plastic or metal, different mounting frames may be appealling to a service member for a variety of reasons. Some may have inherent 'spaces' between each row of ribbons, which may serve to either spread out your ribbons or this can actually be an inconvenience to those who own a plethora of ribbons that they must display. For these people, a condensed ribbon mounting frame, with no "spaces" between rows, would be the most viable options.
If you choose not to purchase your ribbons online, and you have the time and ability, it is not uncommon for unit supply sergeants to actually stock ribbons and mounting brackets that you can simply acquire free of charge. While those online are running businesses with their websites, it is typically in the most rushed or hurried of situations where you would even need to purchase through one of these sites. If you find that you are days away from a dining-in, and live hours from your home unit supply sergeant, it may be the most viable option for you to purchase online. If you do decide to purchase your military ribbons online, you may also be given the opportunity to have it assembled (automatically, by the company) and shipped in that manner. These companies will typically include a $1.00, per row, mounting fee. Dependent on who you are, this may or may not be worth it to you. Of course, if you do have alot of ribbons, having this service done will remove the work load required of you.
Even still, if you do choose to have the company assemble your ribbon rack for you, you will still want to double check the finished product against your DD-214, and graphic print-out, in order to ensure that it is correct.
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