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What Does Military Ribbons Mean and the Color Behind?

Militrary ribbon and what it means
Written by Dawn Herrera

The United States Military plays a key role in protecting and serving the entire country and its citizens. To recognize the achievements accrued over time, the service honors the members with the various ribbons. However, not everyone is awarded. There is strict criteria for that. Displaying a ribbon or a medal earned during service gives the military personnel immense pride.

When awarded, there are specific regulations the military men and women need to follow in terms of when and where to place them and the particular uniform to match with. This is according to the Military Regulation Act. So, what do military ribbons mean, and the color behind them?

Military Ribbons Color

There are multiple colors that you will find on the ribbons. Whether the ribbon comes alone or with a certain medal, the color is likely to differ among them. You will also notice that they match well with a particular attire, and when placed in a particular order. That is why the Military is very strict on the attire military personnel wear with.

Most of these ribbons come in color combinations and varying designs. However, in most of them, the colors are stripped. Also, the combinations are different from what the U.S. Army Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy wear. Some of the colors involved include black, gold, silver, blue, scarlet, white, red, and green, among others. In the paragraphs below, we will focus on the various ribbons that use the explained colors above.

What Do Military Ribbons Mean?

Army Service Ribbon

The ribbon is meant for Army Service. The service consists of Army National Guard, Army Reserve and the Army. It was instituted in 1981 and it is given to Army militants who have completed the initial training successfully. Also, any Army trained before the ribbon was instituted in 1981 is worth being granted the ribbon because they trained successfully and are active in the service. The ribbon has multiple colors in combination.

The Good Conduct Ribbon

Every service category has its own Good Conduct Ribbon. It has a characteristic color and design. For instance, the Army ribbon is plain and stripped. Whether it is being awarded in the Army, Navy, Air Force or the Marine corps, the criteria used seem to rhyme. If the serviceman has portrayed exemplary code of conduct, spent over three years of active service without mistakes and observed efficiency in duties, they are eligible for the Good Conduct Ribbon.

American Campaign Ribbon

The American Campaign Ribbon cuts across all the services. The defense sector is said to have initiated this ribbon in 1942. It was awarded up to 1946. The award criteria depended on merit. Every service member that was part of the service that represented the country in the various U.S. theaters outside the country or within the continental U.S. The ribbon has an excellent color combination and those awarded had to serve for a year. 

Meritorious Service Ribbon

The Meritorious Service Ribbon shows the efforts that a militant has accomplished over time. It is a unique ribbon because it suits the servicemen in all categories. Having been instituted in 1969, it is an outstanding ribbon that every military personnel wishes to have when the right time comes. The award criteria just like other ribbons will depend on performance and achievements. When an officer or a senior has performed meritoriously throughout the years of service, they get the ribbon. It is more of a decoration ribbon when retiring and not a combat theater award.

Combat Action Ribbon

The Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) has special decorations, and it is given to the military personnel who have fought on the ground for a certain cause. During that time, they must fight effortlessly and emerge victoriously. However, it is only awarded to the Marine Corps, Navy and the Coast Guards (when only controlled by Navy). Other members of the military will not receive these ribbons. It is more of a military decoration ribbon instituted in 1969.

Air Medal Ribbon

An Air Medal Ribbon is given for heroic actions that involve military aerial flights. It might not be a very prestigious ribbon but every participant in aerial flight that showcases meritorious acts will be recognized through this ribbon. It shows the Distinguished Flying Cross. Although any officer involved in air combat for long is eligible for the ribbon, most of them have been given to Naval Aviators, Air Force and Naval Flight Officers.


The military ribbons are awarded according to Military Acts. Some ribbons are eligible to all the service members who showcase the recommended criteria, while others entirely depend on the particular military category. The ribbons are many, with the above being very predominant. Thank you for the service and heroism to our men in uniform.

About the author

Dawn Herrera

Dawn is an extremely passionate ribbon designer and blogger. She's written hoards of articles on the importance of using ribbons to raise the awareness of deadly diseases all around us.