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10 Things You May Not Know About The Vietnam Service Medal

10 Things You May Not Know About The Vietnam Service Medal

10 things you may not know about the Vietnam service medal, Vietnam veterans information

Vietnam Service Medal

1. The Vietnam Service Medal was established in 1965 by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

2. The Vietnam Service Medal is awarded to recognize service during the Vietnam War and is authorized to service members of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, provided they meet the award criteria.

3. The design has been attributed to Thomas Hudson Jones, a former employee of the Army Institute of Heraldry and Mercedes Lee who created the design.

4. Defense Department regulations do not permit both the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, for the same period of service in Vietnam.

5. Veterans of the Vietnam War may exchange the AFEM for the VSM and have military records updated to reflect the difference by contacting the National Personnel Records Center, which is the current agency that provides record corrections reflecting an AFEM upgrade to the Vietnam Service Medal.

6. The front of the Vietnam Service Medal consists of a figure of an oriental dragon behind a grove of bamboo trees that represents the subversive nature of the conflict, and the inscription reads "REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM SERVICE".

7. The back of the Vietnam Service Medal consists of crossbow facing upwards that represents the ancient weapon of Vietnam. Also depicted is a fired lighted torch of the Statue of Liberty, inscription "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".


Vietnam Veterans Pocket Square Heroes


8. The color green on the Vietnam Service Ribbon represents the Vietnamese jungles. 

9. The color yellow on the Vietnam Service Ribbon represents the imperial color of Vietnam. 

10. The color red on the Vietnam Service Ribbon represents the three ancient Vietnamese empires of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China.


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Vietnam Service Criteria

The Vietnam Service Medal (VSM) is awarded to any service member who served on temporary duty for more than 30 consecutive days, or 60 non-consecutive days, attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days with an organization participating in or directly supporting ground (military) operations or attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days aboard a naval vessel directly supporting military operations in the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos within the defined combat zone (DoD 1348 C6. revised September 1996) between the dates of 15 November 1961 and 28 March 1973, and from 29 April 1975 to 30 April 1975. 

Check out our Vietnam Service & other Veteran Pocket Square Heroes™ designs, click the below image. 

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  • Bear PS Heroes
Comments 45

    I was Airforce stationed in Korea all of 1966. VA says Korea in ‘66 was considered Viet Nam support and that I’m a Viet Nam vet. Yet I hear contradictions of this often. I’d like to know, as I worked very hard for a year leading C130s with provisions, weapons, food etc, for soldiers and airmen there.

  • Robert Furniss
    Robert Furniss

    DD149 is used to correct your DD 214, like a missing service medal.
    Read the instructions carefully, send only COPIES of letters,forms and awards not listed.

  • Eli Ellis
    Eli Ellis

    I served in Thailand during 1965-66. I am not a “Vietnam Veteran”, nor will I accept the title of “Vietnam Era Veteran” I am a “Vietnam War Veteran”. Read the CHECO reports on the communist insurgency in Thailand. I would guess that we were in at least as much danger as a cook or supply clerk at Ton Son Nhut. What percentage of the troops in Vietnam actually saw combat? americanwarlibrary.com says seventeen support troops to one combat troop. There are exceptions, such as the Tet offensive, in late February and early March of 1968; then, every ablebodied troop was a combat soldier, trained or not.

  • VIncent G. White
    VIncent G. White

    I’ve been wearing a Viet Nam Era cap and a fellow Veteran approached me in our doctors office this morning. He asked where I had been stationed. When I told him in Guam on the B52s from Oct of 72 to April of 73 when we finally bombed Hanoi. He told me to dump my cap and get a Viet Nam Veteran Cap. He said the 6 months in Guam qualifies as a Viet Nam Vet. I was a a Jet Engine Mechanic on the B52s. Thanks for clarifying this concern.

  • Lionel Burns
    Lionel Burns

    Question: I was awarded the AFEM for VN for Tonkin Gulf duty 8/64-9/64, USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14) battle group. My service record shows an award for 11/65 for the same at sea service. I was in country from 2/67-2/68 and my DD214N shows the VSM and was awarded when I out processed in Saigon. So according to 4. DoD regulations above those are two different time periods as I was back in the US from 7/66-2/67 so does that fit the criteria of not being in the same time periods?

  • Don Hetzer
    Don Hetzer

    Air Force, enlisted 6/57, discharged 5/63. Served stateside in Air Defense Command within NORAD. Am I not a Vietnam Era Vet?

  • Tom Nelson
    Tom Nelson

    Maybe a distinction could be made to those veterans who server in country and the Navy, and those who served in the military during that time. By designating a distinction on the ribbon ……something similar to the numerals on ribbons. VV would be for Viet Nam era veterans and VCV- Viet Nam Combat Veterans.
    Have the Department of Haraldry, come up with something.

  • MIke DUrham
    MIke DUrham

    Veterans have to understand who and who is not eligible for the VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL (VSM). You must read the following: Title 32- National Defense, Title, Section 578.26, VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL. First, You had to have served in Vietnam or the 3 countries of Thailand, Cambodia or Laos that provided direct military support to Vietnam. Secondly, there were specific time periods for eligibility. If those 2 conditions were met, your 214 would show VSM.
    I was in the USAF from 1966-1970. I served my final year at U-Tapao AB in Thailand. We provided direct support to Vietnam. Our base had 36 B-52’s and 16 tankers. I was very proud of what we did to directly support the war effort. My 214 shows ‘VSM with one bronze star.’ I am a Vietnam veteran and you can never take that away from me.
    It seems as though there may be 2 elements fighting against each other. There are the vets who served in the military during the specific time period of the war, but not in one of the 4 countries or contiguous waters off the coast of Vietnam. You are not, then, a Vietnam veteran.
    The other element are those who were in combat in Vietnam. Many of them feel that they should be the only ones referred to or called a Vietnam veteran. I’m also a Vietnam veteran, too, and very proud of that.
    There are so many vets and/or organizations that are misusing or trying to identify with something they are not.

  • Jesse KItson
    Jesse KItson

    Doc Raya. The article is correct. You cannot have the AFEM and VSM for service in Vietnam. If you were there before the VSM was awarded then you got the AFEM. You can exchange the AFEM to the VSM, but not the other way around.

  • Doc Raya
    Doc Raya

    Too much wrong with this article. Facts are wrong! You can have both legally, depends on when you and where you were on active duty. Additionally I to the airman who served in Thailand ‘73-’74 yes you should have received the three standard medals/ribbons. Go to VA to have your records amended. They will assist you.

  • Bill

    I served 1972-1978 as a grunt, I was never in the airspace or ground or water of any country’s described in the criteria for the Vietnam service medal. That makes me a Vietnam Era Veteran. I had the privilege of serving with SSG James L Bondsteel who was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor for his bravery in Vietnam in 1969. He was a Vietnam Veteran, not a Vietnam Era Vet. See the difference? Stolen Valor or misleading people, happens way too much now that Veterans are “cool”.

  • Don Fuentes
    Don Fuentes

    I was near Udorn Thailand in 73-74 monitoring Vietnamese Navy patrol boats and Gulf of Tonkin. Should I receive Vietnam medals. None on DD214.

  • Carl Phillips
    Carl Phillips

    I was USN in the SW Pacific May 1962 to July 1963. Stationed on board USS Providence CLG-6. It was the flagship for the Commander of the US Seventh Fleet. It is reasonable to assume that he was directily involved in military planning and decisions for all naval forces in the Vietnam Theater. Am I entitled to the Vietnam Medal? Or to be more practical, will the VFW recognize this service for membership?

  • Carolyn Gilbert
    Carolyn Gilbert

    My husband is hospitalized as we speak …yes his DD214 shows VSM… He was a jet engine mechanic with the ÚSÀF from 1966 to 1973…. His bird was the KC135 and flew TDY missions to Utapao Thailand Okinawa and Guam… Young Tiger was the name of the missions as he remembers … Does his Type 2 diabetes mellitus , hypertension, and ischemic heart disease make him not a brother in arms..? Without support from all service persons we would not be recognized as the greatest military… When a chow hall is bombed does it matter …

  • Carolyn Gilbert
    Carolyn Gilbert

    My husband is hospitalized as we speak …yes his DD214 shows VSM… He was a jet engine mechanic with the ÚSÀF from 1966 to 1973…. His bird was the KC135 and flew TDY missions to Utapao Thailand Okinawa and Guam… Young Tiger was the name of the missions as he remembers … Does his Type 2 diabetes mellitus , hypertension, and ischemic heart disease make him not a brother in arms..? Without support from all service persons we would not be recognized as the greatest military… When a chow hall is bombed does it matter …

  • Richard Guerrera
    Richard Guerrera

    I have asked this question so many times. I searved in the Navy from 1972 to 1975. Do l qualify to wear a t shirt that says , Vietnam vet? I was active duty during that era. So, is a Vietnam Vet only who had boots in country or any Vet who was searving active duty during that time? I always thought if you were active duty during The Vietnam era at any time you could of been deployed to Vietnam making you eligable to call yourself a Vietnam Vet. Anybody see were lm going with this, thanks. Please advise.

  • Jim R
    Jim R

    I served in Guam in 1972 with the Air Force should i get an. Viet nam ribbon??

  • Lee Smith
    Lee Smith

    This boots on the ground stuff is over blown. We all know that there were some places in Vietnam that were like vacation spots. The fact is all military personnel who “participated in direct support” of the Vietnam conflict are Vietnam veterans. I could careless about what some might think.

  • David Wilson
    David Wilson

    I served from August 72— August 76 in.the United States Coast Guard.
    I have heard pros and cons as to whether I can or cannot wear the Vietnam Era Ribbon. I was stationed here up and down the East Coast. Does anyone have an answer to this question?
    Thank You. SEMPER PARATUS!!

  • Bob Petrone
    Bob Petrone

    I like to clarify comment in reference to the Vietnam Service Ribbon. Based on conversation if
    you where in the service during Vietnam supporting it in some way you deserve one. You were a Vietnam era Vet,
    Not a Vietnam Combat Vet. There is a difference!! Vietnam Service Ribbon was boots on the ground our actual support
    in Vietnam.

  • Michael Ausley
    Michael Ausley

    Served in operation frequent wind in 1975 and never received VSM or any other ribbons associated with Viet Nam. How do I get my DD 214 to reflect that service.

  • dennis borelli
    dennis borelli

    I have to laugh at some of the questions regarding who is authorized to wear the Vietnam Service Medal. People stationed in Thailand and the Philippines asking if they are eligible. I was stationed in Nam twice. We were given R & R (rest and relaxation for one week) and could choose among several places both Thailand and the Philippines as an authorized R & R location.

  • Robert L W Martin
    Robert L W Martin

    When someone asks if I was in Vietnam I ALWAYS tell them that I was never on the ground but I flew over it a lot. As a Tanker pilot (KC-135) I flew 197 combat missions from Takli and U-tapao, during the time period of about April 1967 to about July 1971. We generally flew over to the Laos border just west of Hanoi to drop off our fighters and up and down the Gulf of Tonkin. I believe I refueled just about every type of fighter and fighter/bomber that we had. Plus some B-52s. I’m proud that I got to help the fighter jocks out but in no way do I compare myself to the guys that were on the ground in Nam.

  • Anthony Mazza
    Anthony Mazza

    I served in the Navy attached to Patrol Suadron Four when it was deployed to Iwakuni Japan with duty in Vietnam in 1965. I was part of a ground crew that was stationed in Saigon. I was there in July-September of 1965. This falls within the time after the Executive was issued. However my DD-214 shows the Expeditionary medal not the Vietnam medal. The Navy review board denied my request for a change. What can I do now?

  • Robert Calhoun
    Robert Calhoun

    I was a Security Policeman assigned to the 388th Security Police Squadron at Korat during Operation Frequent Wind. I remember we had to guard the aircraft that were used in support of it. Am I eligible for the Vietnam Service Medal? I was notified my AFMPC that I was not eligible because it didnt state anything on my DD Form 214 or APRs, even though they admitted I was there during the Operation.

  • Barney Hohl
    Barney Hohl

    Ysabel Torres, in 2008, Congress approved the VSM for military members who participated in operations during 29-30 April 1975. And for those who participated in the operation and rescue of the SS Mayanguez days later, a bronze star was also allocated along with the Medal.

  • loyd cooper
    loyd cooper

    June 12, 2019 I am putting together my shadowbox display of Vietnam medals. I served 2 tours (1968-1971); but was med-evacuated after my 2nd tour. My records did not catch-up to me during my hospitalization and I was separated from the army on “temporary files and soldier’s affidavit”… so I never received credit for 65 air assaults for my air medal in Cambodia; and I never received credit for 5 of the 9 campaign stars on the Vietnam Service Medal. I DID receive one Air Medal representing 13 air assaults and 4 stars on the VSM after my FIRST tour but have not been able to get the other verifications, other than my 201 File… which shows the units, and dates of those tours. So, can I use my 201 File AND my diary-journals to add the campaign stars and the air assaults on those ribbons for my display? I am 70 yrs old and have cancer and I want to get it done before “the end”.

  • Robert Nelson, Sr.
    Robert Nelson, Sr.

    For all of you asking what ribbon/medals you should have received, refer to your DD214 form which you received upon discharge from the military. That is the official record of your dates of service and what ribbons/medals you are eligible for. If you don’t have your DD214, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs and they will tell you how to get it.

  • George Myers
    George Myers

    In the country from Nov 69 to Jun 72 Army Phu Lam (Stratcom) Worked in the Autodin building, traffic service section. Which won’t mean much unless you worked in one of the switches.

  • J Baker
    J Baker

    I served in the USAF, at Utapao RTNAB Thailand 11/1972 – 05/1973. My DD-214 lists a VSM with one bronze star. The bronze star is for being there during the “Cease Fire Campaign”. I consider myself a Vietnam Vet even though the “boots on the ground” vets tend to get upset when they find out I was not actually in country. I have been told it is disrespectful to the real Viet. Vets for me to wear a Vietnam Vet cap. They tend to think they were the only ones who participated in the war effort. Even though I probably worked on some of the B-52’s that saved their bacon on more than one occasion, I guess that doesn’t count. To them I say “you’re welcome” and get over yourself, it was a group effort. We are all “Brothers in Arms” all the way down to the dishwasher in the chow hall.

  • joe

    I served aboard USS Kitty Hawk, 1971-73, participated in Operation Pocket Change (mining of Haiphong Harbor), Ships log shows I was within 17 miles of north Vietnam. Wonder what medal , other than VN Service, I have earned?

  • Frank Doyle
    Frank Doyle

    Dan Vaughn, I think your mixing your medals up, you received the National Defense medal upon graduation like everyone who put on the uniform.


    I served in the Air Force at Kadena AFB Okinawa as a ground equipment repairman for the SR-71 Blackbird which flew over Vietnam. Am I elegible for the Vietnam service medal or Campaign medal?


    WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE VSM WITH CAMPAIGN STARS: Did the service member served in Vietnam ?? pleased advised, thank you kindly

  • George Landis
    George Landis

    What medals should I have received for service in Vietnam, in 1965?

  • Dan Vaughan
    Dan Vaughan

    My understanding, if u were in the service during Vietnam, u should have received one. We got ours in basic training 1972

  • Thomas Hill
    Thomas Hill

    I was stationed at the US Naval Security Group Activity located at San Miguel, Philippines during 1969 and 1970. Am I eligible for the Vietnam Service Medal?

  • Larry Watkins
    Larry Watkins

    I served in Thailand between 12/68 to 11/70 as an engineer on an U.S. Army Large Tug. I have the Vietnam Service Ribbon.

  • Albert Chavez
    Albert Chavez

    what is the significance of two bronze stars

  • robert T land
    robert T land

    I served during the Vietnam War here in the States training Pilots who flew in Vietnam during that time. I was wondering if that qualified me to have the Vietnam Ribbon/Medal?

  • Lewis Carswell
    Lewis Carswell

    I was at udorn Thailand sept74 until 29 july75 nothing on …did form 214

  • Ysabel Torres
    Ysabel Torres

    I was in operation frequent wind and i was wondering if i was also suppose to get a service ribbon for that operation

  • Bruce Gaetos
    Bruce Gaetos
    @Louis Polovick, according to Wiki:

    Service star (campaign star): for participation in or support of operations in the seventeen designated campaigns of the Vietnam Conflict, a ​3⁄16 inch bronze service star is authorized for wear on the Vietnam Service Medal suspension and service ribbon for each of the campaigns from 15 March 1962 to 28 January 1973; a ​3⁄16 inch bronze star is also authorized for Operation Frequent Wind, 29-30 April 1975, for Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force personnel. A ​3⁄16 inch silver star is authorized in lieu of five bronze stars.

    One ​3⁄16 inch bronze service star is authorized for each campaign under the following conditions:

    1. Assigned or attached to and present for duty with a unit during the period in which it participated in combat.
    2. Under orders in a combat zone and in addition meets any of the following requirements:
    a. Awarded a combat decoration.
    b. Furnished a certificate by a Commanding General of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that soldier actually participated in combat.
    c. Served at a normal post of duty (as contrasted to occupying the status of an inspector, observer, or visitor).
    d. Aboard a vessel other than in a passenger status and furnished a certificate by the home port commander of the vessel that he or she served in the combat zone.
    e. Was an evadee or escapee in the combat zone or recovered from a POW status in the combat zone during the time limitations of the campaign. POWs will not be accorded credit for the time spent in confinement or while otherwise in restraint under enemy control.

  • WIlliam MUlvaney
    WIlliam MUlvaney

    I got mine for serving During operation frequent wind April 1975

  • Louis Polovick
    Louis Polovick

    I was presented with this award with two bronze stars. W hat is the significance of the two ?

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