The United States Army gives awards for a variety of things. Campaign badges are awards that are given for participating in an armed conflict. The first such awards in the United States were given out by George Washington. Campaign badges allow a soldier to proclaim his willingness to risk his life for his country. It also allows soldiers who were in the same campaign to instantly recognize each other.
Awards are worn in three forms: medals, ribbons and badges. Medals consist of a bar, a strip of cloth that descends from the bar and a medallion. These are the awards presented in formal ceremonies and pinned on by high-ranking officials. Ribbons are the compact form of awards--a small bar covered with colored stripes. Ribbons can be snapped together to present the multicolored swatches worn on the uniforms of solders on formal occasions. Badges are pieces of cloth that bear a stylized picture or banner and the only form of an award that is permanently sewn on the uniform. Campaign badges include cloth emblems that become a permanent part of the uniform to show the wearer's participation in an armed conflict.
The United States Army campaign badges form a pictorial history of the armed conflicts that America has seen. At first, the awards were only made to the leaders, but eventually awards filtered down to the lowest solders. Enlisted men were given free badges, but the officers had to buy theirs. From the Revolutionary War, campaign badges were awarded to Washington for "saving" Boston and to John Paul Jones for his victories at sea. Campaign awards (mostly to officers) were made during the war of 1812, the War with Mexico and important battles of the Civil War. It was in the Civil War when enlisted men begin sewing campaign badges on as a permanent part of their uniforms. There were three different campaign awards in WWII, depending on if the soldier was in Europe, the Pacific or North Africa.
Service medals are given to soldiers who were in armed conflicts other than declared wars. These include conflicts where America was in an advisory or other ancillary role. These include the Korea Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Southwest Asia Service Medal (Middle Eastern conflicts). These medals have the same requirements as the campaign medals: 30 days or more in an area of armed conflict. There are also "expeditionary medals" for shorter conflicts, such as the invasion of Grenada and the conflict in Nicaragua.
- us soldier's medal for valor image by James Insogna from Fotolia.com