Everyone Gets a National Defense Service Medal… Until Now
When troops defend America, they receive many things, including career opportunities, compensation, experiences that you can’t find anywhere else, and much more. Medals and accolades are also part of the deal and presented for various reasons, but generally speaking, they’ll be presented when troops go above and beyond, sacrifice their health, or win/are a part of a conflict. Ever since 2001, the National Defense Service Medal is a ribbon that has been provided to virtually everyone who has served between then and now. But the medal’s days are numbered.
Read next: Executive Order 12985: Instituting the Armed Forces Service Medal
What Is National Defense Service Medal?
Created in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces whenever the U.S. is either in a specific time of armed conflict or facing a national emergency.
It’s been presented to troops who served during the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and the Global War on Terrorism. Military members do not have to see combat in order to receive the NDSM award.
The front side of the medal presents a North American bald eagle perched on a sword and palm with the inscription “National Defense” in a semicircle above.
On the back side, the medal showcases the U.S. coat of arms shield, half encircled with an open wreath featuring oak leaves on the right and laurel leaves on the left.
The National Defense Service Medal ribbon consists of a yellow stripe in the center that’s wider than the center’s other red, white, and blue stripes. On each side of all this are wider red stripes.
To signify those troops who have another achievement that’s connected to the award, a National Defense Service Medal with bronze star may be presented.
Who Is Eligible for the National Defense Service Medal?
Anyone who has served in a designated conflict or during a state of national emergency has been eligible for the award and continues to be until after December 31, 2022.
National Defense Service Medal eligibility could be changing in the near future, however, as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that a memorandum signed on August 30, 2022, would stop awarding the medal beginning in 2023.
“Termination is based on the United States no longer conducting large-scale combat operations in designated geographic locations as a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States that occurred September 11, 2001,” wrote Austin in a memo declaring the medal will no longer be awarded after December 2022.
Conflicts Persist Around the World
While there’s no debate that U.S. Forces are pulling out of the Middle East, that doesn’t mean that we’re out of conflict around the world.
This isn’t even a stretch, as American Forces are still fighting and assisting other nations directly in armed conflict against terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc.
But the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has deemed that these conflicts are not enough to qualify for the award. The end result is a suspension of the medal that members received for their participation.
This is not unheard of, as the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal suffered the same fate after the DoD said no more automatic GWOT service medals would be handed out earlier this year.
Either way, it still feels like a disservice to those serving, as there are many ways to serve your country.
Receiving the National Defense Service Medal for fighting conflicts that protect Americans makes sense as a recognition of this differentiation.
Airstrikes continue in Africa and the Middle East, and the Russia/Ukraine situation in Europe has caused an increased presence of U.S. military members ready for potential combat.
Whether or not you believe troops shouldn’t care about awards and should remain dedicated to their duty, it’s clear that those willing to fight deserve recognition for their service.
How Do I Get My National Defense Service Medal?
If you’ve served since September 11, you can receive your NDSM from the branch of service you are in for the time being.
A National Defense Service Medal Protected Veteran status in the workplace remains regardless of the changes the future may hold.
The DoD may have its reasons, but this is a situation that feels like the military community is receiving the short end of the stick.
If you’re willing to live, serve, and die for this country, you deserve any and every bit of recognition and benefit that’s available. Issuing a National Defense Service Medal feels like the bare minimum for serving.
Suggested read: The Navy Cross Honors the Valor of Sailors