The United States military inter-service awards and decorations are those medals and ribbons which may be awarded to all members of the six military branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Each military department awards inter-service awards under the same criteria.


The World War I Victory Medal was the first inter-service award. This was followed by the Purple Heart,[1][2] Silver Star Medal,[3] Legion of Merit,[4] Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal decorations. Prior to this time, several older service medals had been issued both to the Army and Navy, but in different versions for each service. The World War I Victory Medal, Purple Heart, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal were thus the first medals which appeared identical, regardless of which service was bestowing the award.

By the end of World War II, several World War II service medals had also been established for issuance to both Army and Navy personnel. The United States Coast Guard also received such awards under the authority of the Department of the Navy. After World War II, The Korean Service Medal[5] was the first inter-service non-decoration award which was awarded by all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; in 1947, the United States Air Force had been established as a separate branch of service. Since 1956, and 2010, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and Silver Star Medal may also be awarded by the Coast Guard.[6]

In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. Armed Forces created the Meritorious Service Medal, and several campaign medals and service awards, all of which may be awarded by any service branch.

The United States Department of Defense in the 1960s and 1970s, also began creating a series of peacetime meritorious awards which were eligible for presentation to any military member working in a joint command or under the authority of the Secretary of Defense. The last such medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal decoration, was created in 1983. The only inter-service unit award, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award was created in 1981.[7][8]

On April 5, 2011, President Barack Obama amended Executive Order 12824 modifying the award eligibility of the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal to "any member of the Armed Forces of the United States" making it an inter-service award of the U.S. military. Recently, this decoration has been given to Gen Craig R. McKinley (USAF) for his service as Chief of the National Guard Bureau.[9][10]

The Medal of Honor, originally a Navy award, is now technically an inter-service award, is issued in different versions for each branch of military service. There are presently three versions of the decoration in existence for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Marines receive the Navy version of the Medal of Honor while a Coast Guard version, which exists in theory, has never been bestowed (the one Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor received the Navy version[11]).

The following are the various military medals of the United States which are considered inter-service awards and decorations. Medals are shown in categories, not in order of precedence for uniform wear.

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Service Cross Medals

Awarded for "extraordinary heroism in combat"

Distinguished Service Cross (Army) Navy Cross Air Force Cross Coast Guard Cross

Department level military decorations

Defense Distinguished Service Medal Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal Defense Superior Service Medal Defense Meritorious Service Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal Joint Service Achievement Medal
Joint Meritorious Unit Award

Federal military decorations

Silver Star Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal Air Medal

Federal service awards

General service

National Defense
Service Medal
Armed Forces
Expeditionary Medal
Service Medal
Military Outstanding
Volunteer Service Medal
Armed Forces
Service Medal

Reserve and Special service

Armed Forces Reserve Medal Prisoner of War Medal Antarctica Service Medal

Korean War service

Korean Service Medal Korea Defense Service Medal

Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and Balkans service

Vietnam Service Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal Kosovo Campaign Medal

Global War on Terrorism

Afghanistan Campaign Medal Iraq Campaign Medal Inherent Resolve Campaign
Global War on Terrorism
Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism
Service Medal

See also


  1. ^ Air Force Personnel Center, 8/3/2010, Purple Heart
  2. ^ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, The Purple Heart,
  3. ^ Air Force Personnel Center, 8/3/2010, Silver Star
  4. ^ "LEGION OF MERIT",The Institute of Heraldry,"Legion of Merit". Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  5. ^ "Korean Service Medal". The Institute of Heraldry. Retrieved 2023-09-03.
  6. ^ Homeland Security, Coast Guard Military Medals and Awards Manual, 15 August 2015
  7. ^ "Joint Meritorious Unit Award". The Institute of Heraldry. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  8. ^ "JOINT MERITORIOUS UNIT AWARD",Headquarters United States European Command,"Joint Meritorious Unit Award". Archived from the original on 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  9. ^ "Executive Order 13569--Amendments to Executive Orders 12824, 12835, 12859, and 13532, Reestablishment Pursuant to Executive Order 13498, and Revocation of Executive Order 13507". 5 April 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2012 – via National Archives.
  10. ^ "Panetta hosts Chief Change for National Guard Bureau". U.S. Department of Defense. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  11. ^ "Douglas Albert Munro, USCG",