Getting Started With Your Medals & Ribbons

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It may have been years since you served. You may only have a photograph or a document about your family military service. This site is designed to help you find the answers needed to put your or your family's military awards into a display. And if you have any questions, we are just a phone call, fax, letter or e-mail away.

Our customers tell us that their family's military award display is one of their most prized possessions. It occupies a place of honor in their home and is always the most viewed and commented on by guests. It clearly says your family took an active role in defending freedom. The crushing defeat of the Nazi and Japanese Axis, the collapse of Communism and other totalitarian regimes make the United States leader of the free world. Without our Armed Forces, this could not have happened. Your family's military awards are an important part of American history. They show the high standards to duty, honor, and country for each generation to see and honor.

With years of combined Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force experience we guide you step by step in putting together an authentic first-class military awards display.

We encourage you to include special mementos and any original medals or insignia you have. Photographs, dog tags, pieces of shrapnel, only your imagination limits what is significant for you or your family to go in the display case. Also, we can redrape any tarnished or worn medals.

We have over 2,000 military ribbons, medals, badges, insignia and patches to put your case together the way you want it. Everything that you receive in your case will be new and meet or exceed the United States Institute of Heraldry's approved standards.

Awards are shown for World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Southwest Asia. Displays show the generally awarded medals with skill badges and suggested layouts. Commonly awarded foreign medals are displayed in some sample cases along with commemorative medals where appropriate. As you look through the sample displays, you will see various ways to combine insignia, badges, patches, medals and ribbons with a brass plate to make a very handsome testimonial to military service.

Military medals come in two types - Decorations and Service Medals. Decorations are individual awards for valor or meritorious service. They almost always come in a distinctive shape, such as a star, cross or hexagon. Service medals are circular which distinguish them from decorations. They are awarded for participation or service in a particular campaign, expedition, occupation, or emergency duty.

Campaigns, battles, assault landings such as Normandy, and additional awards are indicated by small metal devices attached to the ribbon of the medal. Attachments come in stars, oak leaf clusters, numerals, etc. and are very important for correctly showing the holder's service. These attachments and how they are placed are shown in detail in the Medals Department.

There are three basic ways to display awards are: ribbon bars, miniature medals and full size medals. Award displays are always enhanced by the use of patches, skill badges, uniform insignia, and engraved brass nameplates.

Many veterans have a display made with the miniature medals mounted for wear. The beauty of this design is that it allows the miniatures to be displayed, and removed for wear. Many veterans also use miniature displays to present to their sons and daughters.

The best and most traditional way to display military honors is full size medals. A veteran's display with full size medals is more valuable because it represents an individual American veteran's personal accomplishments and has real historical significance. This is, in addition, to the medals treasured sentiment and important place in family heritage.

Many military medals are by famous artists such as James Earl Frazier, Francis Millet and Paul Manship. Others are by the U.S. Mint or the Institute of Heraldry. These beautiful medals are more than our nation's grateful acknowledgment of fidelity. They recall the men and women, events, deeds, and circumstances which forged our great country.

When selecting a case size, one size larger than you think is generally best. It provides adequate margin and does not crowd the awards. Your brass plate should state name, rank and unit. Identify your selection by Case number and background color. Don't crowd your medals, plan on a generous margin.

We are proud to be recommended by service branches, members of Congress and Veterans groups and are proud to serve you - America's finest citizen. Put us to work for you today!


Why buy a military shadowbox for you or someone else?

Be an inspiration to generations.

American families have always been proud of their Veterans. Military records, recollections of battles, and personal letters to home have helped many families retrace lost family trees. It can also instill pride to find out that you have had a relative in an important turning point in history.

Besides thinking about the generations to come, the immediate need for a military shadowbox for yourself, a family member or a friend is the foundation of our mission statement here at Medals of America. All Veterans should take pride in their service to our great country and be recognized for it, in person. Your military shadowbox will serve as a visual as you recount personal stories and pass on your legacy to family and friends, allowing them to share in your experience and emotion. Only then will your service be complete. Only you can tell your military story, so don’t let the opportunity to share your piece of history pass you by.

As Veterans, we pursue a shadowbox for a number of reasons and sometimes it’s just to get all our stuff in one nicely packed box, because a shadowbox just says it all. Often the Veteran that doesn’t think their service was that big a deal or perhaps like far too many we know, the culture of the time was not supportive. It is, then, the family that will want to honor the Veteran. Sometimes a family member or friend will build a display because of the overwhelming love and respect that they have for a Veteran.

Help! How do I get my or family member’s service records?

If you don’t already have your DD214’s or separation papers, you can request these documents form the National Archives. The National Archives have the tools on their homepage to do all sorts of digging. There are links to several archival databases for serious digging but most people will just use what they call the eVetRecs found here:

You can do it all online, or fill out the SF-180 to mail or fax in the request. Below is some info you will need.

This information includes:

  • The Veteran's complete name used while in service

  • Service number

  • Social security number

  • Branch of service

  • Dates of service

  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).

  • If you suspect your records may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:

    • Place of discharge

    • Last unit of assignment

    • Place of entry into the service, if known.

  • All requests must be signed and dated by the Veteran or next-of-kin.

  • If you are the next of kin of a deceased Veteran, you must provide proof of death of the Veteran such as a copy of death certificate, letter from funeral home, or published obituary.

It is not a fast service because of the amount of people requesting documents, but it is a wonderful service that is free for most Veterans. If you are able to do it all online, they will even send you email confirmations. Just be patient and friendly, they will do the rest. Trust me, they take the job of retrieving the service records you need very seriously and will call all kinds of other government locations to get answers.

To see more, take a look at their video.

Tips for crafty budgeters

It’s all about what you have to have and what you don’t.

Trust me when I say that there is no need to overthink this. Your shadowbox will look perfect with just the basic elements. First and foremost, your shadowbox price is dependent on two things; medals and the size of the shadowbox needed to contain those medals. You must have enough set aside for those because those are the most important and most expensive part of the shadowbox. Do not put miniature medals in a display case. You might think they can save you a buck or two, but it is not worth it. You can get a great case with full size medals without breaking your budget. The other items you may want in your shadowbox might be sitting around in an old cigar box or they are relatively inexpensive, like a military patch for $5.95. You can get a little crazy with $5 items, and that is where a lot of people go wrong.

Let’s talk importance. At Medals of America, we pride ourselves in maintaining the Valor Act, which requires documentation of valor awards. You and your family should be honored if you have a medal or twenty medals, or in my father’s case, none. The point is, get the medals on your paperwork; they are all nicely minted, colorful and true to your time in the service and if you have any gaps in representation, take a look into our commemorative medals to fill what is important to you. Each size shadowbox that Medals of America offers has been designed to hold a certain amount of medals. Choose the one that is designed for the amount you need. Once you have done this, the rest of your budget will be used to finish it off.

In the case of my father, what was important to him, was his shoulder patch, insignia and badges since he was given no other ribbons or awards during his service in the National Guard. To finish your case, choose the most important patches, rank, unit awards and pictures. A picture can be a nice top centerpiece and a great space filler for your case. Then pick the last rank you were and any other small insignia that is important to place in the case. If you are still in budget but want a little more to tell your story, take a look at adding challenge coins and other memorabilia.

The last and final thing to add is the engraved brass plate at the bottom/center of your case to tell everyone who you are. A small plate can look just as nice as a big one, but again it is up to the importance you place on your words versus accessories. Because you are charged per letter, this is where you can blow the budget. A nice three or four line plate can be your budget saver without sacrificing other patches and insignia.

Now, if you are even a slightly crafty person with a ruler and scissors, you can mount this shadowbox at home for free with your family! You can save up to $45 just by using the EZ mount system that each shadowbox comes with. You get Velcro, instructions, wall mounts, the special colored fabric backing board and our lifetime guarantee. There is no damage to your award and by cutting small pieces of Velcro for your medals and ribbons, you can always move your awards around without the worry of gluing stuff in place. One of our customers shadowboxes even survived a hurricane and the ocean waves with all of his awards still stuck in place! Mounting your own shadowbox can be a rewarding and fun experience.

Still in budget? If not, can you see anything besides medals you can take away? Is there anything else you need to add? Remember, you will only do this once, so make sure your shadowbox is perfect. Once you are satisfied with your shadowbox, go online to build your case or give one of our Veterans a call to advise you and write up your order. You can also signup for our emails that are filled with promotions and offers all the time.

Feel free to give us a call between 9am and 7pm EST at 1-800-611-3707. One of our Military Awards Specialists will be more than happy to answer questions and help you build the perfect display case.


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