Whenever you see a medal, you always see a ribbon too. Nations around the world celebrate their military heroes by recognizing them with a badge of honor. Here are some of the world’s most famous military ribbons.
The Purple Heart
This purple satin ribbon is given to those injured or killed in battle after April 5, 1917, though it took about fifteen years after that for it first to be awarded. George Washington established its predecessor, the Badge of Military Merit. More than a million people were awarded this medal after WWII. About 320,000 received it after WWI, and 315,000 got it when they came back from Vietnam.
The Medal of Honor
This is the highest military distinction given to those fighting for the U.S.A. above and beyond the call of duty. With a light blue silk moiré ribbon with thirteen white stars in the shape of three chevrons, this badge was created in 1861 and has only been awarded 3,469 times. The Army, Navy, and Air Force versions are all slightly different. The ribbon also comes with a lapel button, and if one joins the league of those nineteen who have received the ribbon twice, as of 2013, the recipient receives a “V” device to put on the ribbon.
The Military Medal
This medal is given to those who distinguish themselves bravely in service on land for the British Commonwealth. This medal was established March 25, 1916 and discontinued in 1993 for the Military Cross (MC). It hung on a blue ribbon that had red and white stripes. The MC has a purple and white moiré ribbon.
If the MC is the equivalent of the Purple Heart, this ribbon is the British Medal of Honor. On a 1 1/2 inch maroon ribbon, this is given to any military personnel for conspicuous bravery or self-sacrifice. It takes equal precedence with the George Cross, which can be given to civilians for acts of great heroism.
This is the highest honor awarded by the French. It has five distinctions, and although it is technically limited to French nationals, those who live abroad and serve French ideals can also be distinguished, which amounts to the same thing as being awarded the ribbon. Founded by Napoleon in 1804, this red ribbon has been awarded to over a million people, including Bob Dylan and Julia Child.
If you serve in a military campaign, at least in the U.S., you will receive a ribbon to wear on your coat. A total of 57 ribbons exist today to honor those who have served our country. But as the Legion d’Honneur and the George Cross show, you don’t have to wear a uniform to receive a fancy satin ribbon.