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Do You Know What the Oldest U.S. Service Medal Is?

Do You Know What the Oldest U.S. Service Medal Is?

National Defense Veterans Pocket Square Heroes


The National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) was established by President Eisenhower per Executive Order 10448, dated 22 April 1953. The medal was first intended to be a "blanket campaign medal" awarded to service members who served honorably.

However, this is not the case. The National Defense Service Medal is designated for a time period of which the Secretary of Defense had declared a “national emergency” during a time of war or conflict.

The National Defense Service Medal is authorized for the following time periods:

Korean War – June 27, 1950 – July 27, 1954

Vietnam war January 1, 1961 - August 14, 1974

Persian Gulf War - August 2, 1990 - November 30, 1995

Global War on Terror (Afghanistan & Iraq Campaigns) - September 11, 2001 - Present day

The National Defense Service Medal is the oldest “service medal” used by the United States Armed Forces.

The National Defense Service Medal designs were created by Mr. T. H. Jones and were submitted on 26 May 1953. The Department of Defense and representatives of all services met on 27 May 1953 and 3 June 1953 selecting the design for final approval.

The front of the medal shows the American bald eagle, our National emblem; sitting a top a combination of oak and palm leaves which signifies strength and preparedness. Above this is the inscription “National Defense”.

On the back of the medal is a shield from the Coat of Arms of the United States, and which symbolizes the defense of the United States. Half encircled with an open wreath, the right side in oak leaves and left side in laurel leaves.

National Defense Veteran Pocket Square Heroes

In our opinion, the National Defense Service Medal is the most recognizable service medal. The ribbon is colored red, white, blue and yellow. The NDSM ribbon can be seen on bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, lapel pins and now pocket squares. See our version here.

The National Defense Service Medal is number eleven out of twenty-nine in the order of precedence and is related to the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. The next lower medal is the Korean Service Medal. The next higher would be the Navy Occupation Service Medal, the Army Occupation Service Medal and the Medal for Humane Action.

If you have served during four authorized periods this is denoted by the addition of three bronze stars added to the ribbons face. The use of a silver star is authorized representing a sixth award and you are a badass.

It is said that in practice some military clerks will not add the National Defense Service Medal to the DD-214. If this is so, eligible veterans may apply to the military service departments to have it added to their records by filing a DD Form 215. Follow link here to file. 

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

Pocket Square Heroes Veteran Military



Veteran Gifts, About the Iraq Service Medal 



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  • Christopher Costa