Service: Coast Guard
Criteria: Exceptionally meritorious service to the United States Government in a duty of great responsibility
Devices: Gold Star
Notes: Originally authorized in 1949 but the design was not approved until 1961
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It is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Coast Guard, distinguishes himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the United States in a duty of great responsibility. To justify an award of the Distinguished Service Medal, exceptional performance of duty, clearly above that normally expected, which has contributed materially to the success of a major command or project, is required.
In terms of its symbolism, the Massachusetts was the first U.S. Revenue Cutter. Built in 1791, it was the forerunner of a long line of similar vessels which rendered distinguished service to U.S. Maritime history and was considered a fitting symbol to use on the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal. The ribbon consists of a central stripe of light blue, bordered on each side by a pinstripe of white. The ribbon is edged in purple. Additional awards are denoted by gold stars.