Meritorious Service Medal (United States)

Meritorious Service Medal (United States)
Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal (United States).png
Awarded by United States Armed Forces
Type Medal
Eligibility Military Personnel Only
Status Currently Awarded
Next (higher) Purple Heart
Equivalent Meritorious Service Medals:
Joint Service, Branch Service
Next (lower) Air Medal
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon

The Meritorious Service Medal is a military decoration presented to members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguished themselves by outstanding meritorious achievement or service to the United States subsequent to January 16, 1969. Effective 11 September 2001, this award also may be bestowed for meritorious achievement in a designated combat theatre.[1] Normally, the acts or services rendered must be comparable to that required for the Legion of Merit but in a duty of lesser, though considerable, responsibility. A higher decoration, known as the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, is intended for similar services performed under joint service with the United States Department of Defense. Today, most MSM recipients are field grade officers (pay grades O-4 to O-6), senior warrant officers (W-3 to W-5), senior noncommissioned officers (E-7 to E-9), foreign military personnel in the ranks of O-6 and below, and individuals who have displayed a level of service that warrants an award of such magnitude. To receive this award the individual must exhibit exceptionally meritorious service at that level of responsibility.[2]



At the Tri-Department Awards Conference (February 5, 1968), there was a discussion on the need for a third meritorious award to provide appropriate recognition for non-combat achievement or service comparable to the Bronze Star for combat achievement or service. It was felt that the Legion of Merit's prestige was slipping because it was being used with increasing frequency to reward service below the Legion of Merit's intended standard, but higher than that required for the Commendation Medal.[3]

An ad hoc committee was formed by the Secretary of Defense (M&RA) to select a name. On November 8, 1968, the committee unanimously approved the name "Meritorious Service Medal". President Lyndon B. Johnson established the Meritorious Service Medal per Executive Order 11448, dated January 16, 1969. The Executive Order was amended by President Ronald Reagan per Executive Order 12312, dated July 2, 1981, to authorize award to members of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations.

The decoration was designed by Mr. Jay Morris of the Institute of Heraldry, and the design was approved by the committee on March 20, 1969. The ribbon design purposely follows the colors used for the Legion of Merit to reflect the parallel between the two medals. The eagle, symbol of the United States, stands on laurel branches denoting achievement. The star is used to represent the military service and the rays emanating therefrom denote the constant efforts of individuals to achieve through excellent and meritorious service.

The Meritorious Service Medal is a bronze medal, 1.5 inches in diameter overall, consisting of six rays issuant from the upper three points of a five-pointed star with beveled edges and containing two smaller stars defined by incised outlines; in front of the lower part of the star an eagle with wings upraised standing upon two upward curving branches of laurel tied with a ribbon between the feet of the eagle. The reverse has the encircled inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "MERITORIOUS SERVICE". The ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide and consists of the following stripes: 1/8 inch Crimson 67112; 1/4 inch White 67101; center 5/8 inch Crimson; 1/4 inch White; and 1/8 inch Crimson.[4]

Subsequent awards in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force are denoted by the attachment of bronze oak leaf clusters to the ribbon and medal; susbequent awards in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard are denoted by the attachment of gold stars to the ribbon and medal.

Notable Recipients


External links

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