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How to Wear United States' Military Medals and Ribbons

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

Mounted brilliantly, in accordance with a pre-defined military ribbon and medals order of precedence, this colorful display of United States' service member accomplishments holds a sacred tradition to many in the military. Whether one be a new recruit just fresh out of basic training, or a seasoned combat veteran with multiple overseas tours under their belt, the number of military ribbons and medals one has earned is actually quite secondary to the proud display and appearance of professional wear of these time-honored awards. Truth be told, a service member could have been awarded every ribbon and medal under the sun, however, their peers outlook on their professionalism could be significantly skewed if they arrive at a formal dining-in with their ribbons, medals, or uniform (in general) looking so disheveled after being extracted from the nether regions of a duffle bag.

Not only should you wear your military medals and ribbons the proper way, in accordance with such regulations as AR 670-1, simply because it is the right thing to do, but, the way you present yourself can also directly affect your potential for promotion. In the United States' Army, in order to be considered for promotion to either Sergeant (E-5, in the enlisted ranks) or Captain (O-3, in the officer ranks), your official military packet (including a DA Photo) must go in front of a military board that is convened specifically to determine which candidate is worthy of promotion above their peers. Proper wear of your United States' Military medals and ribbons is absolutely critical when being considered for promotion.

Things You Will Need

  • Your DD-214 Form
  • Your Authorized Military Ribbons and/or Medals
  • a Military Ribbons Mounting Bracket
  • Your Service Dress Uniform

Step 1

Proper wear of your military ribbons and medals can only be had if you know exactly which awards you are authorized to wear. You can easily determine this by accessing your iPerms (Personnel Electronic Records Management System) and printing off a copy of your DD-214 or other service records where an accurate list of all your earned awards are listed. For Air Force military personnel, you can verify your award qualifications by visiting the virtual MPF website (Air Force Personnel Center).

Bear in mind that circumstances may exist in which your record may have a discrepancy that will make it difficult to fully comprehend. In certain situations, service members may have actually been accidentally awarded the same medal twice, had that discrepancy caught later on in their career, and a letter of revocation may have been placed in their record (revoking an award that had been previously authorized). While rare and uncommon, if you know that your military career has produced a rare situation, you will want to cross verify your authorization to wear certain medals with your S-1/admin section. More oftentimes than not, as highly trained professionals, they will be able to address any issues or questions you may have.

Step 2

Once you have found a copy of your authorized military ribbons and medals online, it is highly recommended that you print this paper off. As you progress through your military career, and earn new ribbons, you will want to take full responsibility of your career and ensure that all your awards and achievements are documented accurately. You should strongly consider printing out this document, and storing them in a personnel file at your home.

Step 3

With a print out of your authorized military ribbons and medals in hand, there are a variety of places online and offline where you can purchase your ribbons. While you should receive a medal, and its accompanying ribbon (along with a certificate and award write-up), when you are awarded it by your unit, you may choose not to take these out of the presentation case. You can easily purchase your ribbons either at a local PX clothing and sales, at your nearest base, or online on a variety of websites. Your unit's supply sergeant may also carry a full stock of ribbons, in which case, you may be able to get all your military ribbons for free just by paying him/her a visit.

For national guardsmen or reservists, making a trip to a base, may be a very time consuming endeavor (especially if you live hours away from a major military post). For active duty personnel, your ribbons, medals, and mounting racks, can easily be purchase at your bases' clothing and sales. If you choose to purchase your ribbons or medals online, many online retailers offer a ribbon rack mounting service at a small additional charge. Typically, on top of the purchase of your ribbons and ribbons mounting bracket for your military dress uniform, hand mounting fees can be up to $1 per row. While it can be really quite convenient to have someone else hand mount your ribbons and medals for you, it really isn't overly difficult or time consuming to do this yourself.

Step 4

If you have chosen not to purchase your ribbons and medals online and have them hand mounted for you, you will first want to remove all your ribbons from their packaging and dispose of the paper packaging waste. While your printed off military record of awards and achievements will show your which ones you have earned, they most likely will not tell you their specific order of precedence. With a computer nearby, many online retailers offer a free online ribbon rack builder program that you can easily access. Just by simply dragging and dropping each of your authorized ribbons, you will begin to see your military ribbon rack begin to populate on the screen. Bear in mind, just because you use a company's service online doesn't necessarily mean that you are obligated to purchase from them.

Even if you choose not to purchase your ribbons from them, constructing your military ribbons rack using their free service can give you a great visualization of your military ribbons order of precedence.

Step 5

With your computer screen next to you, you should pick a smooth flat surface in which to lay out all your ribbons or medals. Ideally, because of the small nature of military ribbons, the best location for this arrangement should be done in an area that is clutter free and has alot of light. If you are not paying attention to what you are doing, it is very easy to forgo attention to detail while allowing one of your ribbons to fall or slip off of your work area table or bed.

Step 6

If you have decided to mount your ribbons by yourself, you will want to check and double-check your lain out ribbons against your award service records prior to mounting. Once you have mounted your ribbons it can be really quite difficult to remove them without ruining each ribbon because of the inherent tight fit of each. With fragile material, accompanied by a tough ribbon mounting bracket, it can be very easy to ruing the material if you play around with it too much. Ruining the material on even a single ribbon can cause great inconvenience as you may have to drive quite some distance to purchase another single ribbon.

Step 7

Once you have successfully mounted each of your ribbon to its bracket, in its proper place, you will want to check to ensure that the sides of each ribbon are flushed with the next ribbon. The material of your ribbons can fray quite easily, therefore, it is important to pay attention to detail because your mounting bracket can cause inherent resistance that may cause mounting to be difficult. Rather than force a ribbon, onto the mounting bracket, against its will, you can delicately open up the backing of the ribbon carefully with a set of pliers.

Step 8

With your military ribbons and medals successfully mounted, you will want to consult your service branches' specific regulation regarding the wear and appearance of their dress uniform. In the United States' Army, you will consult AR 670-1 and reference the appropriate section for the specific uniform you will be wearing. Just as uniforms vary for male and female, so also will distances and measurements vary for the placement of your ribbon rack.

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Oct 25, 2010 1:48am
Only a military man could write an 8 step article on how to wear ribbons and medals! It's very detailed and well-written, did you write policies, procedures and manuals for the military? :) I'm totally just joshin' you, don't shoot me!
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