The various medals awarded during combat operations reflect specific degrees of unit and/or an individual soldier's performance.
Legion of Merit
The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The decoration is issued both to United States military personnel and to military and political figures of foreign governments. The Legion of Merit (Commander degree) is one of only two United States military decorations to be issued as a neck order (the other being the Medal of Honor) and the only United States decoration which may be issued in award degrees (much like an order of chivalry or certain Orders of Merit). The Legion of Merit is sixth in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations, and is worn after the Defense Superior Service Medal and before the Distinguished Flying Cross. In contemporary use in the U.S. armed forces, the Legion of Merit is typically awarded to Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force general officers and colonels, and Navy and Coast Guard flag officers and captains occupying command or very senior staff positions in their respective services. It may also be awarded to officers of lesser rank and senior enlisted personnel, but these instances are less frequent and circumstances vary by service.
The Air Medal is awarded for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.The medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Armed Forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself/herself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. Awards may be made to recognize single acts of merit or heroism, or for meritorious service. Award of the Air Medal is primarily intended to recognize those personnel who are on current crew member or non-crew member flying status which requires them to participate in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in the performance of their primary duties. However, it may also be awarded to certain other individuals whose combat duties require regular and frequent flying in other than a passenger status, or individuals who perform a particularly noteworthy act while performing the function of a crew member but who are not on flying status. These individuals must make a discernible contribution to the operational land combat mission or to the mission of the aircraft in flight. Examples of personnel whose combat duties require them to fly include those in the attack elements of units involved in air-land assaults against an armed enemy and those directly involved in airborne command and control of combat operations. Awards will not be made to individuals who use air transportation solely for the purpose of moving from point to point in a combat zone.
National Defense Service Medal
The National Defense Service Medal is a service medal of the United States. The National Defense Service Medal was intended to be a "blanket campaign medal" awarded to any member of the United States military who served honorably during a designated time period of which a "national emergency" had been declared. The National Defense Service Medal is the oldest service decoration still in circulation by the United States armed forces. Combat and meritorious medals (such as the Medal of Honor, Achievement Medals, and Commendation Medals) are older still but are classified under separate award criteria from service medals. In the years since the creation of the National Defense Service Medal, it is authorized only for the following time periods: June 27, 1950 to July 27, 1954 for service during the Korean War; January 1, 1961 to August 14, 1974 for service during the Vietnam War; August 2, 1990 to November 30, 1995 for service during the Gulf War; and September 11, 2001 to a date to be announced for service during the War on Terrorism.
Army Commendation Medal
The Commendation Medal is a mid-level United States military award/ decoration which is presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service. For valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy force, but of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Bronze Star, the Valor device ("V" device) may be authorized as an attachment to the decoration. Each branch of the United States Armed Forces issues its own version of the Commendation Medal, with a fifth version existing for acts of joint military service performed under the Department of Defense. The Army Commendation Medal is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States other than General Officers who, while serving in any capacity with the Army after 6 December 1941, distinguished themself by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service. Award may be made to a member of the Armed Forces of a friendly foreign nation who, after 1 June 1962, distinguishes themself by an act of heroism, extraordinary achievement, or significant meritorious service which has been of mutual benefit to the friendly nation and the United States. For additional awards of the Commendation Medal, the Army issues bronze and silver oak leaf clusters.
Iraq Campaign Medal
The Iraq Campaign Medal became available for general distribution in June 2005. The decoration is awarded to any member of the U.S. military who has performed duty within the borders of Iraq (or its territorial waters) for a period of thirty consecutive days or sixty non-consecutive days. The medal is retroactive to March 19, 2003 and is active until a date to be determined. Personnel who have been engaged in combat with an enemy force, or personnel who have been wounded in combat or wounded as a result of a terrorist attack within Iraq, may receive the Iraq Campaign Medal regardless of the number of days spent within the country. The medal is also awarded posthumously to any service member who dies in the line of duty within Iraq, including from non-combat injuries such as accidents and mishaps. The Iraq Campaign Medal may be awarded with the Arrowhead device for qualified soldiers. The Iraq Campaign Medal may be awarded with the combat operation insignia for qualified sailors assigned to Marine Corps units. The following are the established combat campaigns authorized for service stars to the Iraq Campaign Medal: Liberation of Iraq – March 19, 2003, to May 1, 2003, Transition of Iraq – May 2, 2003, to June 28, 2004, Iraqi Governance – June 29, 2004, to December 15, 2005, National Resolution – December 16, 2005, to January 9, 2007, The Surge - January 10, 2007, to December 31, 2008 and Iraqi Sovereignty - January 1, 2009 to a date To Be Determined.
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
The Afghanistan Campaign Medal became available for general distribution in June 2005. The decoration is awarded to any member of the U.S. military who has performed duty within the borders of Afghanistan (or its airspace) for a period of thirty consecutive days or sixty non-consecutive days. The medal is retroactive to October 24, 2001 and is active until a date to be determined. Personnel who have been engaged in combat with an enemy force, or personnel who have been wounded in combat within Afghanistan, may receive the Afghanistan Campaign Medal regardless of the number of days spent within the country. The medal is also awarded posthumously to any service member who dies in the line of duty within Afghanistan, including from non-combat injuries such as accidents and mishaps. The Afghanistan Campaign Medal may be awarded with the Arrowhead device for qualified soldiers and with the combat operation insignia for qualified sailors assigned to Marine Corps units. The following are the established combat campaigns authorized for service stars on the Afghanistan Campaign Medal: Liberation of Afghanistan – September 11, 2001 to November 30, 2001, Consolidation I – December 1, 2001 to September 30, 2006, Consolidation II – October 1, 2006 to a date to be determined.
Some More Campaign Medals
There are many military "Campaign Medals" and most of them may be viewed by searching the internet. Below are 5 more interesting medals. These medals are a tribute to the unselfish dedication of the "American Soldier" throughout the various conflicts in which the United States Army has participated.
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