Monday, February 23, 2015

Can you wear the awards you want to?

A reader asked me where the regulations say you can wear your "top three" awards, and if you could wear just the awards you wanted to wear.  Good question!  In the 5301 ( it says the following:

"3.  Arrangement.  Arrange ribbons in order of precedence in rows from top down, inboard to outboard.  Wear either the three senior ribbons, or all ribbons if you have earned three or more."

Easy answer to the first question.  The second often pops up with people who don't feel they "earned" an award.  The reality is that you don't get to pick the awards, and that's an order.  Some people take this to extremes, such as with the Medal of Honor awarded to Smedley Butler for actions during the Invasion of Vera Cruz:

"After the occupation of Veracruz, many military personnel received the Medal of Honor, an unusually high number that diminished somewhat the prestige of the award. The Army presented one, nine went to Marines and 46 were bestowed upon Navy personnel. During World War I, Butler, then a major, attempted to return his Medal, explaining he had done nothing to deserve it. The medal was returned with orders to keep it and to wear it as well." (from:

I have confronted Sailors that attempt to pick and choose what awards to wear.  My threshold is that once you've received 2 awards more than what is on your ribbon rack, it's time to update it.  Yes, that means a bit more money...which in that case, you can wear your top three.  It's silly to listen to arguments about what awards to wear, and it's against regulations, so don't allow it.