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How to Wear Military Medals and Ribbons Outside of the Military?

Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how to wear military medals and ribbons

There is a strict wear guide for military medals and ribbons in the military. But what if you are outside and are wearing civilian clothes? Today’s article will provide information on how to wear military medals and ribbons outside of the military. So, you will not have to second-guess!

Wearing Military Medals and Ribbons on Civilian Clothes

mini-ribbons-on-suit

What To Prepare

You just need to prepare your military medals and ribbons. Then, read our guide and follow along!

What To Do

Army

Full-size or miniature-size medals can be worn on civilian attire and should be placed in the same way as military medals on uniforms.

They should be on the left breast in the order of precedence from the right to the left. In other words, the medals with the highest order of precedence should be closest to the heart of the wearer. If more than one row is required, the medals with a higher order of precedence should be worn on the top row.

Here is an example of mini ribbons on a suit:

military-medals-on-civilian-attire

Military Ribbons on Uniforms

Each ribbon should be arranged in the order of precedence. The highest ranking ones are at the top and on the right.

For example, a ribbon rack can begin with a high-level Medal of Honor or a Distinguished Service Cross and finish with lower-level unit awards, non-military awards, and foreign awards.

The ribbons should be in rows, and the rows should not exceed four. If there are more than four ribbons, the wearer should start another role. The first and second rows should have the same number of ribbons, while the remaining rows can have fewer.

The entire ribbon rack should be pinned 1/8-inch above and in the center of the left breast pocket for male wearers and on the left side while centered with the nameplate on the right for female wearers.

Military Medals on Uniforms

Full-size or miniature-size medals can be worn on civilian attire and should be placed in the same way as military medals on uniforms. They should be worn on the left breast in the order of precedence from the top to the bottom and from the right to the left.

In other words, the medals with a higher order of precedence should be worn on the top row if more than one row is required, and they should be closer to the heart of the wearer.

All of the medals should be above the left breast pocket for males and centered for females.

Wear Army medals on the left not on the right:

on-civilian-clothes

The medals should not overlap one another in a row. Even though medals that are on higher rows can hang down over the ones on lower rows, all medals should be visible.

There is no standard number of medals in each row. It depends on the size of the uniform and the number of medals worn. But when arranged into rows, the bottom row should have the most medals. In addition, every row should have a space of 1/8 inch from another.

Here is another example of Army medals on a uniform:

military-medals-on-uniform

Marine Corps

Miniature medals can be worn on civilian evening dress, while miniature replicas of ribbons can be worn on non-evening dress. For the latter, they should be in the form of lapel buttons or rosette form. They should be worn on the left lapel of clothes.

You can find more details in the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations (MCO P1020.34G).

Navy

The Navy allows for the wearing of Navy decorations on civilian clothes. Miniature medals can be worn on civilian evening dress, which is similar to a white tie dress code, or civilian dinner dress, which is essentially a black tie dress code.

Miniature replicas of ribbons in lapel buttons or rosette form can be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes like on a blazer or on a tuxedo.

Detailed regulations can be found in the Navy Uniform Regulations on Chapter 6, paragraph 61002, and sub paragraph 7 — Navy uniform regulations mini medals.

Air Force

As with the Army, ribbons and medals should be worn in the same location and in the same manner as they are worn on the Air Force uniform.

According to the Air Force Instruction 36 – 2903 (Paragraph 4 – 4), wearing military medals on civilian suits is possible for retired Air Force members who were honorably discharged. On occasions like Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day, they can wear full-size or miniature-size medals.

Coast Guard

Similar to the Navy and Air Force, the Coast Guard allows for the wearing of miniature medals on civilians’ evening dress and civilian dinner dress. In either case, they should be worn in the same manner as formal dress uniform wear and dinner dress uniform wear, respectively. Miniature replicas of ribbons can be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes.

You can find more in the Coast Guard uniform Regulation, Table 3.G.1.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

wearing-military-medals-on-civilian-suits

What is the order of precedence for military ribbons and medals?

In the instructions we have provided above, we mentioned arranging ribbons and medals in the order of precedence. But in what order are military ribbons worn?

  • Army Distinguished Service Cross:

Army-Distinguished-Service-Cross

  • Navy Cross
  • Air Force Cross
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary Distinguished Service Ribbon
  • Department of Defense Distinguished Service
  • Army Distinguished Service
  • Navy Distinguished Service
  • Air Force Distinguished Service
  • Coast Guard Distinguished Service
  • Silver Star:

Silver-Star

  • Defense Superior Service
  • Surgeon General’s Medallion
  • Legion of Merit Officer
  • Legion of Merit:

Legion-of-Merit

  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Army Soldiers – Heroism
  • Navy & Marine Corps
  • Airmans
  • Coast Guard Medal for Heroism:

Coast-Guard-Medal-for-Heroism

  • Bronze Star
  • Purple Heart
  • Defense Meritorious Service
  • Meritorious Service
  • Air
  • Air Force Aerial Achievement:

Air-Force-Aerial-Achievement

  • Civilian Aerial Achievement
  • Joint Service Commendation
  • Army Commendation
  • Navy & Marine Corps Commendation:

Navy-&-Marine-Corps-Commendation

  • Air Force Commendation
  • Coast Guard Commendation
  • Joint Service Achievement
  • Army Achievement
  • Navy & Marine Corps Achievement
  • Air Force Achievement:

Air-Force-Achievement

  • Coast Guard Achievement
  • Combat Action
  • Air Force Combat Action
  • Commandants Letter of Commendation
  • Coast Guard Combat Action

Coast-Guard-Combat-Action

  • Army Presidential Unit Citation
  • Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
  • Navy Presidential Unit Citation
  • Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award with NAVY/AF/MC/CG Frame
  • Army Valorous Unit Citation Award:

Army-Valorous-Unit-Citation-Award

  • Navy Unit Commendation
  • Gallant Unit Citation
  • Coast Guard Unit Commendation
  • Army Meritorious Unit Citation
  • Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation:

Navy-Meritorious-Unit-Commendation

  • Air Force Meritorious Unit Award
  • Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Army Superior Unit Award
  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
  • Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation:

Coast-Guard-Meritorious-Team-Commendation

  • Navy E
  • Air Force Organizational Excellence Award
  • Coast Guard E
  • Coast Guard Bicentennial Unit Commendation
  • Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service
  • Gold Lifesaving:

Gold-Lifesaving

  • Silver Lifesaving
  • Prisoner of War
  • Army Good Conduct
  • Navy Good Conduct:

Navy-Good-Conduct

  • Navy Good Conduct WWII
  • Marine Corps Good Conduct
  • Marine Corps Good Conduct WWII
  • Air Force Good Conduct
  • Coast Guard Good Conduct
  • Army Reserve Components Achievement:

Army-Reserve-Components-Achievement

  • Army National Guard Components Achievement
  • Naval Reserve Meritorious Service
  • Selected Marine Corps Reserve
  • Air Reserve Meritorious Service
  • Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct
  • Fleet Marine Force
  • Outstanding Airman of the Year
  • Air Force Recognition:

Air-Force-Recognition

  • Navy Expeditionary
  • Marine Corps Expeditionary
  • Yangtze Service
  • Navy & Marine Corps China Service
  • Mexican Service
  • World War I Victory
  • World War I Occupation
  • American Defense:

American-Defense

  • Women’s Army Corps Service
  • American Campaign
  • Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal – WWII
  • European – African – Middle Eastern Campaign
  • World War II (WWII) Victory
  • World War II (WWII) Occupation
  • Medal for Humane Action
  • National Defense Service
  • Korean Service
  • Antarctica Service:

Antarctica-Service

  • Coast Guard Arctic Service
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary
  • Vietnam Service
  • Southwest Asia Service
  • Kosovo Campaign
  • Afghanistan Campaign
  • Iraq Campaign
  • Inherent Resolve Campaign
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary:

Global-War-on-Terrorism-Expeditionary

  • Global War on Terrorism Service
  • Korea Defense Service
  • Armed Forces Service
  • Humanitarian Service
  • Outstanding Volunteer Service
  • Army Sea Duty
  • Air and Space Campaign
  • Air Force Nuclear Deterrence Operations Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve
  • Army NCO Professional Development
  • Army Service:

Army-Service

  • Army Overseas Service
  • Army Reserve Components Overseas Training
  • Coast Guard Special Operations Service
  • Combat Readiness
  • Navy Sea Service Deployment
  • Navy Arctic Service
  • Naval Reserve Sea Service
  • Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service
  • Coast Guard Overseas Service
  • Air Force Overseas Short Tour:

Air-Force-Overseas-Short-Tour

  • Air Force Overseas Long Tour
  • Air Force Expeditionary Service Gold Frame
  • Air Force Expeditionary Service
  • Coast Guard Sea Service
  • Coast Guard Restricted Duty
  • Military Training Instructor
  • Basic Training Honor Graduate (Coast Guard)
  • Navy Recruiting Service
  • Marine Corps Recruiting
  • Coast Guard Recruiting Service
  • Air Force Longevity Service Award
  • Air Force Special Duty
  • Air Force Recruiting:

Air-Force-Recruiting

  • Navy Recruit Training Service
  • Marine Corps Drill Instructor
  • Navy Ceremonial Guard
  • Marine Corps Security Guard
  • Marine Corps Combat Instructor
  • Navy Reserve
  • Marine Corps Reserve Service
  • Air Force NCO Professional Military Education Graduate
  • Basic Military Training Honor Graduate (Air Force)
  • Air Force Training
  • Merchant Marine Combat Bar
  • Merchant Marine Defense
  • Coast Guard Enlisted Person of the Year Ribbon
  • Merchant Marine Atlantic War Zone:

Merchant-Marine-Atlantic-War-Zone

  • Merchant Marine Pacific War Zone
  • Merchant Marine Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone
  • Merchant Marine World War II Victory
  • Merchant Marine Korean Service
  • Merchant Marine Vietnam Service
  • Merchant Marine Expeditionary
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) National Order Medal 5th Class
  • French Croix De Guerre Medal – WWII
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Special Service:

Republic-of-Vietnam-(RVN)-Special-Service

  • Belgian Croix de Guerre
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross Medal w/ Palm
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross Medal w/ Gold Star
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross Medal w/ Silver Star
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross Medal w/ Bronze Star
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Navy Gallantry Cross w/ Anchor
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Lifesaving
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Wound
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Armed Forces Honor Medal 1C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Armed Forces Honor Medal 2C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Staff Service 1C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Staff Service 2C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Tech Service 1C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Tech Service 2C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Training Service 1C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Training Service 2C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Civil Action 1C
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Civil Action 2C
  • Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
  • Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Presidential Unit Citation
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Civil Action 1C Palm Unit Citation
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Civil Action 2C Palm Unit Citation
  • Philippine Defense – World War II
  • Philippine Liberation – World War II
  • Philippine Independence:

Philippine-Independence

  • United Nations (UN) Korean Service
  • United Nations
  • United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR)
  • United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia Medal
  • United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM)
  • United Nations Mission in Haiti
  • NATO
  • NATO Kosovo:

NATO-Kosovo

  • NATO Non-Article 5 Medal for the Balkans
  • NATO ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)
  • NATO Training Mission Iraq
  • NATO Article 5 Active Endeavour
  • Multi-National Forces and Observers
  • Inter-American Defense Board
  • Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Campaign
  • Saudi Arabian for the Liberation of Kuwait
  • Kuwait Liberation of Kuwait
  • Republic of Korea (ROK) Korean War Service
  • Small Arms Expert Marksmanship
  • Navy Expert Rifleman
  • Coast Guard Expert Rifle
  • Navy Expert Pistol:

Navy-Expert-Pistol

  • Coast Guard Expert Pistol Shot

When to wear medals or ribbons? When do you wear military medals?

You can wear military medals in civilian attire during events and occasions with a military theme. Some examples are Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It is also possible to wear them for parades, conferences, and funerals.

Can ribbons and medals be worn together?

You should not wear large medals and ribbons together. The only exception is if you wear unit ribbons on the right side of your uniform.

Can I wear my military ribbons on civilian clothing?

Yes, you can. But it is important that you wear them properly and with respect. You should avoid wearing them casually and in daily clothing, though.

Conclusion

Now, you should know how to wear military medals and ribbons outside of the military. If you have any thoughts or questions, reach out to us in the comments below. Otherwise, help us share this article with other readers!

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