Wearing of medals/ribbons from other US mil. branches.

So I was watching “Heartbreak Ridge” the other day, and while I know it isn’t all that accurate it got me thinking of this question.

Say somebody spent 10-15 years of service in the US Army and then for some reason decided to go over to the Marines. Let’s assume this soldier was highly decorated to the extreme. So later on this Marine has to attend a function in full dress. Does/Can he wear his Distinguished Service Cross he got in Korea? His Medal of Honor from Vietnam? Would he be issued instead the equivalent Marine medals to wear? (Navy Cross and the MoH with the Navy/Marine design) What about medals/ribbons that are the same across branches like Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars?

I know a bunch of this is unlikely, but just curious all the same.

You can wear all the medals you received from one service, if you move to another.

Some medals are the same for all. The Purple Heart for example. That’s not an issue obviously.

Some are distinctive for each service, such as the Comnendation medal. If you had an Army Com, and went to the Navy, you’d just wear your Army Com, it wouldn’t become a Navy Com because you transfered to the Navy.

When I was in A.I.T. many, many moons ago, a couple drill sergeants told some of the prior-service guys who’d been in the National Guard not to wear ribbons awarded by states. Supposedly the RA didn’t recognize state-specific military decorations. I don’t know if the drill sergeant’s advice was based on an accurate understanding of regulations, though. Since I’ve heard contradictory things about this issue.

In other news, yes, generally speaking you can wear a Navy decoration on an Army uniform and vice-versa.

Anyone giving you contradictory information is flat wrong. An active duty Soldier cannot wear any medals issued by an agency inferior to the Federal Government. This includes National Guard Soldiers who have been activated on Title 10 Orders! So even if you are still in the National Guard, you can’t always wear your ARNG Ribbons and Medals.
Some ribbons and medals are Reserve/Guard specific, but are actually issued at the Federal Level. These may be worn. However, the “State Superior Service” or “State Activation Service” or “Super Hurricane Helper” or “Excellent Sandbag Filler”… those can’t be worn when on Active Duty–even if you are still in the Guard.

Generally speaking, this is the case. If you were awarded the Army MoH, and you became a Marine, you would still wear the Army Medal. Similarly, you would wear many of your other Army-specific Medals as well.

However, some medals will need to be “converted” to your new branch. For instance, if you were awarded a Combat Infantry Badge in the Army, you would wear the Marine Combat Action ribbon instead. There are regulations governing which awards convert to what, and which awards can still be worn, etc.

Also, I believe the Marines also wear Unit Citations on the same side and on the same rack as individual awards. If you then joined the Army, you would wear these ribbons on the right side of your chest instead.

Thanks **Bear_Nenno **. . . what you say is pretty much in line with what I suspected. All except the badge-medal conversion thing, which I hadn’t heard of before . . . although my military experiences are such that there’s no reason why I should have encountered it. Interesting.

As someone who has spent a large portion of my life in the Army, both active and national guard I can tell you without reservation that most of national guard troops don’t bother wearing their state specific awards.

I have plenty of first hand experience with this going from the Marine Corps to the National Guard. Every single Marine Corps specific award transfers over, but would be placed at the bottom of my ribbons bar (ie the precedence is lower than all Army specific awards). That and my Navy PUC is now worn on the right brest next to my Army PUC awarded to my Guard unit in World War 2.

I don’t know if this is ever done with regard to medals, but many times when I had to go to formal functions I saw Sergeants Major who tried to get ex marines to take off their marine corp combat patches (unit patch for the unit you went to combat with) even though they were nominally authorized for wear.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a usual occurrence in some units for the wearing of inter-service metals to be discouraged.

Here’s the problem with that. Marines don’t have unit patches. The ones that you see are left over from WWII when MacArthur was the theater commander and wanted the Marine divisions to wear them like Army divisions did. The patch has not been authorized by the Marine Corps since 1947. It was not authorized to wear those patches on Army uniforms until recently when some Army units were under Marine command in Fallujah. Most of the Viet Nam era Marines that I knew in the Guard usually wore the MACV patch instead.

ETA You should see how some would have a problem with some wearing a Marine patch that isn’t even authorized for wear when they were Marines.

The U.S. Coast Guard rule is: Only medals, ribbons and devices earned while you were in the Coast Guard may be worn with a Coast Guard uniform. This irritates many prior service people in the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard’s sole Medal of Honor awardee, Douglas Munro, actually received the Navy Medal of Honor, because he was assigned to (read “on loan to”) the Navy when he earned his award. However, because he was enlisted in the Coast Guard at the time, he would have been authorized to wear it with his Coast Guard uniform. Except of course the award was posthumous.

The official Army policy is that Marine Corps unit patches cannot be worn for prior service Marines who were deployed as Marines. They can only be worn by Army personnel assigned to augment a USMC unit. It’s a regulation that’s widely disregarded, at least in the Guard. In fact, I was encouraged by my Battalion SgtMaj on down to find a 1st Marine Division patch, and wear it.

Of course one should check the regulations governing wearing of the uniform for one’s current service. One thing that gripes me about the Navy’s regulation is the flat statement “wearing of the Army Achievement Medal on the Navy uniform is not authorized.” That’s asinine.

Bear_Nenno: I’ve never heard of one service’s award converting to another. If one’s received the award, then, unless one’s prohibited by the new service, one wears it on the uniform.

Yeah the ones in my unit were Viet Nam vets. I knew the service records of both. One was in Khe Sanh. The other was in some heavy duty shit too. No one cared that they where wearing Marine combat patches. But when we deployed in 04 they did not wear them.


That’s just it though. Can’t wear a CAB or CIB on a Navy/Marine uniform. So they have steps in place to convert the award to their Combat Action Ribbon. Its not necessary the other way, since a CAR can be worn on the Army uniform. Hell, there isnt much that CAN’T be worn on an Army uniform except non-Army marksmanship awards. We are even authorized to wear 1 foreign award.

Had you gone from National Guard to Marines, it would not have been so simple.

Yeah, I can understand that. I need to use some discretion where I wear the patch. Around my own unit the patch serves notice to guys who may not know me that I’ve been deployed- that’s a very important distinction in a Guard unit that’s been mobilized a few times. Likewise, I’ll wear it around other Guard specific training, since other guardsmen are not likely to care about it. But around the Big Army? I’ll probably think twice. I didn’t wear it when I was down in Bragg for a month. It was a training environment, so I didn’t need to prove anything and it wasn’t worth the potential hassle.

Thanks, Bear. That policy started over 8 years after I retired. IMHO, it’s just as stupid as the Navy policy regarding the ASR (I stated the wrong award above; it’s not the AAM). Let the poor guy (or gal) wear the thing they actually earned!

Are you in the NJ Guard?

Thanks to both of you for the clarification. I was under the impression that it was authorized. So this patch (for example) isn’t used by the marines at all anymore? If that’s the case I am surprised they can even be found (at least in the new Velcro camo style).

VA Guard these days.

@AmunRa- There are no authorized uniform patches in the Marine Corps. There are a lot informal unit patches, but nothing that can be worn on a uniform.

I’ve been in the NJ Guard for quite a while. Didn’t know if we were bumping into each other once a month.