How to Wear Army Medals

Written by tom wagner
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How to Wear Army Medals
Miniature medals used for formal ceremonies are half-scale replicas. (military world image by agno_agnus from

Strict rules govern the wearing of military medals, both for those in active service and retired veterans. Active personnel may don medals for functions such as military funerals, inspections, parades or reviews. Veterans may wear their uniforms and display medals during wedding ceremonies, inaugurations, memorial services and military funerals, as well as during ceremonies (including parades) of a patriotic nature if active or reserve military personnel are involved (such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day). These rules apply to all except Medal of Honor holders, who can wear their uniform whenever they want as long as it doesn't involve anything the U.S. Attorney General deems as "un-American activities."

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Army dress uniform, mess or evening mess uniform, or formal civilian attire
  • Army medals: full-size or miniatures

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    Proper Presentation of Medals

  1. 1

    Wear medals on the left breast of dress uniforms, unless the wearing of such uniforms is unauthorised, in which case miniatures of these medals should be worn on formal civilian attire, on the left lapel.

  2. 2

    Wear only miniatures of earned medals (other than the Medal of Honor) on mess and evening mess uniforms and civilian clothes. Miniatures are one-half scale of the originals, except for the Medal of Honor, which is always displayed full-size.

  3. 3

    Line up the full-size medals four in a row over the left breast of dress uniforms, at the level of the heart above the left breast pocket, in order of precedence from the wearer's right to left (from the centre outward).

  4. 4

    Line up a second row of four beneath the top row if the wearer has earned more than four so that the upper row overhangs the lower by no more than half and at the same level for each medal, from the centre outward. If the wearer has earned more than eight medals, line them up below the second row in the same fashion. The rank or precedence of the metals (order of importance) is highest in the No. 1 position (topmost, closest to the centre) and in descending order with the lowest precedence on the bottom row left (outward from centre).

  5. 5

    Line up miniature medals on the left lapel of formal civilian attire, mess and evening mess uniforms, an inch below where the upper edge of the lapel meets the collar. Display them in rows of four as you would for a dress uniform.

Tips and warnings

  • For those attending civilian awards where the display of medals is appropriate, always wear miniatures, rosettes or lapel buttons, with the exception of the Medal of Honor, which is worn around the neck.
  • The wearing of full-size army medals (or those of any armed forces) is prohibited for suspended officers, for convicted enlisted personnel serving a sentence or for anyone dressed in civilian clothing.

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