When Should I Wear My Army Ribbons?

The pride associated with serving in America’s Armed Forces lasts a lifetime and is one that is most clearly demonstrated in a service member’s medals, badges and ribbons they’ve earned during their time of service. While in the military, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are required to wear their medals, ribbons and badges. Our military veterans and active duty service members are authorized to wear them after they transition to civilian life. So, when is it appropriate to proudly display or wear their military awards and decorations after their service has concluded?

military members march during parade

Military Service Members Marching in a ParadeWhile the wearing of military awards and decorations is well-defined in service, it is not so when veterans and active duty personnel want to wear them after they depart. It is acceptable–in fact, encouraged–for military veterans, retirees and active-duty military members to wear their medals, ribbons, badges, or lapel pins at non-military events with a military theme. For example, they can wear them at Memorial and Veterans Day celebrations, socials and formals, community celebrations, and parades and even funerals. We are proud of our military veterans, and we want you to proudly display your medals, ribbons, and badges that signify your contributions to the defense of America and freedom around the world.

Here are a few guidelines regarding how to wear your well-earned medals, ribbons, badges and insignia:

  • The order and precedence for wearing medals, ribbons and badges, is consistent with existing regulations and policies. Ensure you consult your perspective military service regulations and policies and, if you’re Army, consult the Army Officer’s Guide for male and female, or Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide for male and female.
  • Wear military medals, badges, and ribbons on like or equivalent civilian attire and do not wear with casual civilian clothing.
  • Large medals and badges are typically worn on morning or daytime attire, although there is no specific regulation or rule stating this point.
  • Miniature medals and badges are appropriate for wear at formal events on tuxedos and formal jackets by both men and women, similar to the mess dress uniform, and without ribbons.
  • Ribbon racks can be worn on morning or daytime attire as well, but not both large medals and their equivalent ribbon at the same time.
  • Badges, large and miniature, can be worn with medals and ribbons per your specific military service regulations.
  • Retirement, medals and other servicerelated lapel pins are generally worn singularly. A medal-specific lapel pin is usually the service member’s highest military decoration, but it’s a personal choice as there is no hard and fast rule regarding which one of your medals to display on the lapel of your jacket.
  • Lapel pins are worn on the left lapel of a suit jacket or sport coat, parallel to the ground slightly above the heart. If a U.S. flag lapel pin is worn with a medal or retirement lapel pin, ensure the flag lapel pin is placed above the other lapel pins.
  • While there is no specific rule regarding the number of lapel pins, a limit of one or two is generally acceptable.
  • Furthermore, organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Marine Corps League have specific clothing designed for its members to encourage their members to display the service medals, badges, ribbons and insignia they have earned. So, if plan to join a veteran service organization, hold on to your items and, if you already are a member, we can help you, too.

pat oatman post 39 american legion

Medals of America will happily assist you in obtaining your lost or stolen accoutrements, or simply replace the worn out ones. We like to see our military veterans display their awards, as you and your comrades have honorably earned every one of them. Your family and community appreciate your service and commitment to the nation. America loves that you stood up, raised your right hand and took an oath to defend her against all enemies–foreign and domestic. Be proud of your accomplishments and contributions to freedom and the United States of America!