Military medals and awards are hard-earned achievements that deserve to be celebrated and honored. Gifting a loved one their medals and awards is a thoughtful gesture that can last a lifetime and be passed down from generations to come. Creating such a complex and meaningful gift can be difficult, especially if you aren’t exactly sure of the difference between the Army Good Conduct and the Army Commendation medals. But that’s okay! You can leave the hard stuff to the experts at Medals of America.
Here are some frequently asked questions, advice, and tips for ordering medals for yourself, military friend, or loved one who served.
How do I know which medals to order?
The simple answer to this commonly asked question is “check the DD-214”. But, to some people, that doesn’t really answer their question. What’s a DD-214? How can I tell what to get from a piece of paper?
A DD-214, also referred to as “discharge papers” or a “certificate of release”, is a document a service member receives once they have been discharged from the military. The DD-214 contains record of any and all accomplishments such as: medals and awards earned, including attachments and devices, deployment information, and dates of enlistment, deployments, and discharge.
DD-214s are divided into sections containing information like pay grade and rank, insurance information, and deployment history.
The section you need to look at for medal eligibility is under “Service Data” #24: “Decorations, Medals, Badges, Commendations, Citations, and Campaign Ribbons Awarded or Authorized”. In this section every medal, award, citation, badge, etc. that the service member has earned while in active duty will be listed along with any additional attachments or devices authorized.
Medals that are higher valor awards, like the Navy Cross, Silver Star, or the Air Force Cross Medal, we require proof that they were awarded; like an image of the DD-214, photographic proof, or newspaper clippings or written articles, so they may be purchased.
If you still need help to figure out which medals and awards to get, we have Military Awards Specialists- Armed Forces veterans that help our customers build ribbon and medal racks, build shadow boxes, and answer your questions. Give them a call at 1-800-308-0849 with the DD-214 in hand, and they can help answer any questions you may have!
What do you mean by “attachments” and “devices”?
Attachments and devices are assigned to medals and ribbons for multiple awards or specific actions performed during duty. If a medal has an attachment or device associated with it, it’ll be stated in the DD-214 after the medal, usually in parentheses. For example, if your loved one was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal three times, the DD-214 will read “Army Good Conduct Medal (3rd Award)”, and will need a Good Conduct “Knot” device with two knots to represent the additional awards.
Attachments usually denotes additional awards of the medal and there are different attachments for the branches of service. The Army and Air Force use oak leaf clusters and the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard use stars.
Oak leaf clusters come in two finishes: bronze and silver. Bronze oak leaf clusters represent one additional award up to five awards; after five awards the silver oak leaf cluster is awarded.
Bronze and silver star attachments follow the same sentiments as the oak leaf clusters.
Devices often represent certain achievements during service. The “V” device is awarded for valorous acts during service. There are other devices that are restricted to certain medals, like some World War II medals have “bars” that show countries of service like Japan and Germany.
There are other devices like numerals, hourglasses, and a hurricane device.
What kind of medals should I get?
There are many ways to gift someone their medals: a mounted rack, individually, or in a shadow box.
A mounted medal rack is always a great start! You can choose from two sizes and two finishes, full size or miniature and regulation or anodized finishes. Depending on what your intent for the medals are, order the size and finish carefully- if you want to replace medals for someone who is active duty and will wear their medals on a uniform check the regulations for each branch of service.
Our online medal rack builder is a great start for ordering a mounted set of medals. Simply select the branch of service your loved one served in, the size medals you want, and the finish. If the person you’re ordering medals for has served in multiple branches, you can specify that on the specific medals.
If you do not want to order mounted medals we have individual medals to put them on display or add to your loved one’s collection. Alongside individual, or “loose” medals, we offer a clamshell presentation case that will hold a medal, ribbon, and lapel pin. If your special serviced member has lost or misplaced a medal, this is a great option to give them.
A Shadow Box
Building a shadow box for someone else can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task- but fear not! Those Military Awards Specialists mentioned before? They are also renowned shadow box designers! Shadow boxes and display cases can be more than just medals in a frame.
When done, a shadow box can tell the story of years of service, sacrifice, and dedication. Aside from medals, unit patches, dog tags, pictures, and earned badges are included to complete a rounded history of the service member. Picking out and deciding the medals needed is a great first start! If you only want to showcase the servicemember’s medals, we have boxes that will frame the medals perfectly.
Whether it is for a birthday, a holiday gift, or an act of kindness, gifting military medals and awards to a loved one is a special and meaningful gift.