You must follow the uniform regulations, including placing ribbons on a bar, that are specific to your branch of service in the U.S. military, as each branch has its own rules. Awards are given as medals or ribbons only. If the award is a medal, it comes with an associated ribbon so that you can wear the medal. The uniform guidelines for your branch dictate how to place the military ribbons on a bar based on precedence.
Lay any military decorations out in the order shown on the award precedence chart for your branch (see References). The order within this category may vary slightly from branch to branch, depending on the name of the award. Examples of military decorations are the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart.
Place any unit awards following your military decorations. Check the precedence chart for your branch to determine the correct order. Examples of unit awards include the Presidential Unit Citation or the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
Set out any nonmilitary decorations according to the order in which you received the awards. You cannot wear these ribbons unless you are wearing other U.S. military decorations. Examples of nonmilitary decorations include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
Place any U.S. service campaign awards after the U.S. nonmilitary decorations in the order shown on your branch's award precedence chart. Examples of these awards include the Prisoner of War Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal.
Place nonmilitary service awards after the campaign awards in the order of precedence determined by your branch. These awards include the Merchant Marine Gallant Ship Unit Citation and the Merchant Marine Combat Bar.
Set foreign personal decorations next in the order they were received or as determined by the country. These are any awards given by foreign governments. You cannot wear these unless you are also wearing other U.S. service awards. The Navy uniform code sets an award precedence for awards given for service in Vietnam.
Lay out any foreign unit awards next, according to your branch's precedence chart. Examples of foreign unit awards include the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
Set any non-U.S. service awards after any foreign unit awards according to the order of precedence set by your branch. The United Nations Service Medal and Multi National Forces and Observer Medal are examples of non-U.S. service awards.
Lay your foreign service awards out last. The Army groups these into the previous category.
Start with the first ribbon you have laid out and slide it onto the ribbon bar. The highest ribbon goes to the wearer's right and is at the top if you have more than one ribbon bar.
Check the ribbon bar requirements for your branch for the number of ribbons allowed per bar. The Navy and Air Force allow three ribbons per bar unless a uniform lapel hides part of the ribbon. In that case, each branch offers their own options for the number of ribbons on each bar. The Marine Corps allows three, but allows four when displaying a large number of ribbons. The Army allows three or four ribbons, depending on the size of the coat and lapel. The Coast Guard allows a maximum of nine ribbons in rows of three.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images