The Air Force is a symbol of American pride and accomplishment, and those who serve are distinguished heroes. The Air Force offers awards so its airmen and officers can be recognized as such. There are different Air Force awards for various accomplishments, and each award stands to represent specific achievements worth recognition. Awards range from recognizing risk of life in extreme situations to awards for involvement in very specific circumstances. The five awards covered here are the least common and most difficult to achieve.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award granted by the Air Force. It is given to officers and enlisted individuals in the name of Congress to recognize those who distinguished themselves with “gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual combat with an armed enemy of the United States.” This award is for those who managed the impossible in order to save those around them in combat. The medal displays the word “Valor” in bold above Lady Liberty.
The Air Force Cross is awarded for acts of extreme heroism during combat that don’t quite merit the Medal of Honor. It’s basically the Air Force’s version of the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross, being that it’s the second highest award and it represents gallantry and risk of life while in service, heroically in situations where the United States isn’t in direct combat with an armed enemy. The ribbon features a wide center stripe of baby blue with narrow stripes of white and red at the edges. It also features an eagle encircled by a wreath of oak leaves.
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to high-ranking officers who offer extremely meritorious service. It is rarely awarded since it is granted to those with responsibility to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outstanding command in a Defense Agency, or for any other Joint Activities designated by the Secretary of Defense. This award features a center stripe of dark red flanked on either side by wide stripes of gold and medium blue on the ribbon and an eagle perched upon a stack of arrows on the medal.
The Silver Star is awarded by all branches of the armed forces to any person who, while serving in any capacity, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly forces against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The ribbon features a wide center stripe of red flanked on either side by a wide stripe of dark blue, a wide stripe of white, a thin stripe of white and a narrow stripe of dark blue along the edges.
The Legion of Merit is awarded to officers and enlisted men of the armed forces of the U.S. and on nationals of other countries “who shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services” since Sept. 8, 1939, the date of the president’s proclamation of the state of emergency that led to World War II. This crimson ribbon may be awarded for combat or noncombat services. In the case of American military personnel, if the award is for combat service, it is displayed with a combat “V.”
These five awards offered by the Air Force are only a glimpse at the full array of medals and honors granted, but they are the most impressive awards one can receive. Hopefully, the next time you meet a distinguished member of the Air Force, his or her award will not be foreign to you. Displaying such awards is a great honor, and Presenta Plaque can design the perfect plaque to help Airman, their families and friends celebrate the award to its fullest. When you create a celebratory plaque for a member of the armed forces, you’ll be a hero too!