How to Build a Rack for Military Medals

Marine Corps Medal Rack

Military medal racks are a way for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to display the medals and awards they have earned through their military service. Worn on the formal dress uniform, medal racks act as a visual resume for the service member. You can learn how to purchase, set up and protect a military medal rack.

sample DD-214

Figure out what awards should be worn. A veteran can consult her DD-214, the standard form given upon discharge, for a record of awards earned during service. For those still on active duty, personal service records will contain each award earned.

Purchase each ribbon you're authorized to wear. Those still on active duty can go to the military clothing and sales shop at their base exchange. Veterans can shop for medals online at one of the websites below or purchase the ribbons from a civilian Army-Navy surplus store.

Assemble all medals and a medal rack of the correct size, then determine the order of precedence for the awards. The Department of Defense's Institute of Heraldry is an excellent resource. Or you can go to one of the linked websites below, enter the awards, and they will show the correct order to assemble your rack. The highest award goes on top, then from left to right.

Carefully affix any small devices, such as stars or oak leaf clusters, to the ribbon part of the medal, ensuring they are properly centered before sliding your medal onto the rack. Remember to remove any metal backing from the medal, using needlenose pliers if necessary.

Build your rack using the order of precedence. Gently slide the medals onto the rack backing. If the ribbon does not slide on easily, use needle nose pliers to loosen the metal backing. Once all medals are arranged, tighten the ribbons against the backing.

Matthew Blake began writing professionally in 2006. His essays have been published in Robert Root's "The Fourth Genre: A Textbook of Creative Nonfiction" and "Generation What?" by Bess Vanrenen. He was was formerly in the U.S. Army. Blake is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in government and history from the University of Virginia.