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Military awards and decorations are distinctions given as a mark of honor for
military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distin ...
heroism A hero (feminine: heroine) is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength. Like other formerly gender-specific terms (like ''actor''), ''hero ...
, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement. DoD Manual 1348.33, 2010, Vol. 3 A decoration is often a
medal A medal or medallion is a small portable artistic object, a thin disc, normally of metal, carrying a design, usually on both sides. They typically have a commemorative purpose of some kind, and many are presented as awards. They may be int ...
consisting of a ribbon and a medallion.
Civil decoration Civil awards and decorations are awarded to civilians for distinguished service or for eminence in a field of endeavour. Military personnel might also be eligible for services of a non-military nature. There are various forms of civil awards and d ...
s awarded to military personnel should not be considered military decorations, although some
orders of chivalry An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights, typically founded during or inspired by the original Catholic military orders of the Crusades ( 1099–1291) and paired with medieval concep ...
have civil and military divisions. Decorations received by
police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State (polity), state, with the aim to law enforcement, enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citize ...
and fire brigade personnel may sometimes be considered alongside military decorations, on which they may be modelled, although they are strictly not military awards.


History

Decorations have been known since ancient times. The Egyptian
Old Kingdom In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2700–2200 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid-builders of the Fourt ...
had the Order of the Golden Collar while the
New Kingdom New is an adjective referring to something recently made, discovered, or created. New or NEW may refer to: Music * New, singer of K-pop group The Boyz Albums and EPs * ''New'' (album), by Paul McCartney, 2013 * ''New'' (EP), by Regurgitator ...
awarded the Order of the Golden Fly.
Celt The Celts (, see pronunciation for different usages) or Celtic peoples () are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-European peoples. "The Celts, an ancient ...
s and Romans wore a
torc A torc, also spelled torq or torque, is a large rigid or stiff neck ring in metal, made either as a single piece or from strands twisted together. The great majority are open at the front, although some had hook and ring closures and a few had ...
or received other military decorations such as the '' hasta pura'', a spear without a tip.
Dayaks The Dayak (; older spelling: Dajak) or Dyak or Dayuh are one of the native groups of Borneo. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic groups, located principally in the central and southern interior of Borneo, each w ...
wore and still wear
tattoo A tattoo is a form of body modification made by inserting tattoo ink, dyes, and/or pigments, either indelible or temporary, into the dermis layer of the skin to form a design. Tattoo artists create these designs using several tattooing ...
s, etc.
Necklace A necklace is an article of jewellery that is worn around the neck. Necklaces may have been one of the earliest types of adornment worn by humans. They often serve ceremonial, religious, magical, or funerary purposes and are also used as symbo ...
s and
bracelet A bracelet is an article of jewellery that is worn around the wrist. Bracelets may serve different uses, such as being worn as an ornament. When worn as ornaments, bracelets may have a supportive function to hold other items of decoration, suc ...
s were given during the early
Middle Age In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire a ...
s, evolving into large, richly jewelled necklaces, often with a
pendant A pendant is a loose-hanging piece of jewellery, generally attached by a small loop to a necklace, which may be known as a "pendant necklace". A pendant earring is an earring with a piece hanging down. Its name stems from the Latin word ' ...
(commonly a
medal A medal or medallion is a small portable artistic object, a thin disc, normally of metal, carrying a design, usually on both sides. They typically have a commemorative purpose of some kind, and many are presented as awards. They may be int ...
) attached. The oldest military decorations still in use is Sweden's ''
För tapperhet i fält För tapperhet i fält ("For Valour in the Field") and För tapperhet till sjöss ("For Valour at Sea") are two Swedish military medals awarded to officers and soldiers of the Swedish Armed Forces who have—as the medal names suggest&mdash ...
'' ("For Valour in the Field") and ''För tapperhet till sjöss'' ("For Valour at Sea") awarded to officers and soldiers of the Swedish Armed Forces who have—as the medal names suggest—shown valour in the field or at sea in wartime. The medal was instituted by Swedish king
Gustav III Gustav III (29 March 1792), also called ''Gustavus III'', was King of Sweden from 1771 until his assassination in 1792. He was the eldest son of Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Queen Louisa Ulrika of Prussia. Gustav was a vocal opponent of what h ...
on 28 May 1789, during his war against Russia. Whilst technically it is still active, it is for practical purposes inactive, not having been awarded since 1915. The next oldest is the Austro-Hungarian '' Tapferkeits Medaille'' Honour Medal for Bravery 1789–1792. This medal was instituted on 19 July 1789, by the Emperor Joseph II.
Another of the oldest military decorations still in use is Poland's War Order of ''
Virtuti Militari The War Order of Virtuti Militari (Latin: ''"For Military Virtue"'', pl, Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari) is Poland's highest military decoration for heroism and courage in the face of the enemy at war. It was created in 1792 by Polish King St ...
'' (Latin for "For Military Valour"). It was first awarded in 1792.


Forgery

Medals have been forged by many people to make the medal appear more valuable or to make one look like a more decorated soldier. Medal forgeries can include: adding bars, engraving a famous soldier's name on it or creating a whole new medal. Medal forgery is illegal in most countries and can be punishable by imprisonment.


Contemporary use

Today military decorations include: *
Order of merit The Order of Merit (french: link=no, Ordre du Mérite) is an order of merit for the Commonwealth realms, recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Established in 1902 by K ...
; *Bravery awards, in the form of a cross, star or medal on a ribbon; *Distinguished service awards, in the form of a cross, star or medal on a ribbon; *
Campaign medal A campaign medal is a military decoration which is awarded to a member of an armed force who serves in a designated military operation or performs duty in a geographical theater. Campaign medals are very similar to service medals but carry a hig ...
s worn on a ribbon; * Service medals worn on a ribbon; *Awards for entire units, in the form of
Battle honour A battle honour is an award of a right by a government or sovereign to a military unit to emblazon the name of a battle or operation on its flags ("colours"), uniforms or other accessories where ornamentation is possible. In European military t ...
s,
Campaign streamer Campaign streamers are decorations attached to military flags to recognize particular achievements or events of a military unit or service. Attached to the headpiece of the assigned flag, the streamer often is an inscribed ribbon with the n ...
s,
Fourragère The ''fourragère'' () is a military award, distinguishing military units as a whole, in the form of a braided cord. The award was first adopted by France, followed by other nations such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Luxembourg. Fo ...
s, or
unit citation A unit citation is a formal, honorary mention by high authority of a military unit's specific and outstanding performance, notably in battle. Similar mentions can also be made for individual soldiers. Alternatively or concurrently, the unit can be ...
s. In most NATO militaries, only the service ribbons are normally worn on everyday occasions (as opposed to the actual medals).


See also

* List of military decorations * List of highest military decorations *
Civil decoration Civil awards and decorations are awarded to civilians for distinguished service or for eminence in a field of endeavour. Military personnel might also be eligible for services of a non-military nature. There are various forms of civil awards and d ...
* State decoration * Neck decoration * Commonwealth Realms orders and decorations *
Awards and decorations of the United States military The United States Armed Forces awards and decorations are primarily the medals, service ribbons, and specific badges which recognize military service and personal accomplishments while a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Such awards are a means ...
* Awards and decorations of the Russian Federation * Awards and decorations of the Soviet Union * Israeli Military decorations * Orders, decorations, and medals of Spain * Awards and decorations of the German Armed Forces * Orders, decorations, and medals of the United Kingdom * Medal inflation


References

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