NDSM Award History and Overview
The National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) was initially authorized by executive order on April 22, 1953. It is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces for any honorable active federal service during the Korean War (June 27, 1950 – July 27, 1954), Vietnam War (January 1, 1961- August 14, 1974), Desert Shield/Desert Storm (August 2, 1990 – November 30, 1995) and/or Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) (September 11, 2001 to a date TBD). President Bush issued an Executive Order 12776 on October 8, 1991 authorizing award of the medal to all members of the Reserve forces whether or not on active duty during the designated period of the Gulf War. The latest award of the medal was promulgated in a memo, dated April 2, 2002, from the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz who authorized the award to all U.S. Service Members on duty on or after September 11, 2001 to a date TBD. Today, there are probably more people authorized this medal than any other award in U.S. history. Circumstances not qualifying as active duty for the purpose of this medal include: (1) Members of the Guard and Reserve on short tours of active duty to fulfill training obligations; (2) Service members on active duty to serve on boards, courts, commissions, and like organizations; (3) Service members on active duty for the sole purpose of undergoing a physical examination; and (4) Service members on active duty for purposes other than extended active duty. Reserve personnel who have received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Vietnam Service Medal are eligible for this medal.
The front of the medal shows the American bald eagle with inverted wings standing on a sword and palm branch and contains the words, “NATIONAL DEFENSE”; the reverse has the United States shield amidst an oak leaf and laurel spray. Symbolically, the eagle is the national emblem of the United States, the sword represents the Armed Forces and the palm is symbolic of victory. The reverse contains the shield from the great seal of the United States flanked by a wreath of laurel and oak representing achievement and strength. The ribbon has a broad center stripe of yellow representing high ideals. The red, white and blue stripes represent the national flag. Red for hardiness and valor, white for purity of purpose and blue for perseverance and justice.
Be sure to visit Medals of America to pick up your National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) and shop our other military medals! We also offer military medals mounted for wear and a complete line of military ribbons.