Orders, Decorations, and Medals


Orders, Decorations and Medals are symbols representing the honors conferred upon deserving individuals.  The differences between Orders, Decorations, and Medals are subtle and may easily be mistaken by the layperson.



Orders are societies of merit usually given by Royals or Heads of State as tokens of appreciation and recognition of outstanding achievements or exceptional service over a long period of time. Orders usually have different levels or grades, as well as respective ways of wearing them according to their classes. A recipient who has been promoted within an order wears only the insignia that represents the highest grade awarded, and therefore must remove the insignia of the preceding grade or return it to the administrator of the Order.


Decorations are conferred for acts of gallantry in combat, or for bravery or meritorious service in a single event or over a specific period of time. The insignia is only awarded to an individual once. If there were further actions that meet the criteria for the same decoration, a bar would be awarded and worn on the initial decoration in order to denote a second award to the recipient.


Medals are awarded for participation in a military campaign or operation, service under exceptional circumstances, as well as for long and loyal service to the organization. Medals also commemorate royal or national anniversaries and include the lower classes of Orders in some countries and states such as the 4th and 5th classes. Ribbon bars may also be added to campaign or service medals to specify the service being recognized. On long service awards, ribbon bars denote additional periods of eligible service.