Military Ribbon Colors

Military ribbons have precise color schemes, all of which hold meaning.

Individuals and units receive awards for special accomplishments in the military. Often these decorations are ribbons that are typically displayed on the left side of the coat. Each ribbon has its own color scheme and design. The military awards ribbons for everything from achievements, commendations and merit to specific awards for when and where the military person served.

1 Where to Place Ribbons

The military has very specific requirements for the display of ribbons on a uniform. They are to be parallel to the ground, directly in the center between the seam of the arm and the lapel over the left breast pocket of the coat. Medals and ribbons are worn on the dress and semi-formal uniforms only. Placing them on the service coat is essential; they cannot be worn on the overcoat or any other part of the uniform. Medals and ribbons are not to be mixed.

2 What the Colors Stand For

Ribbons all have very specific color schemes with precise measurements. Some of the colors used on ribbons are Old Glory Red, Scarlet, Golden Yellow, Chamois, Imperial Blue, Old Glory Blue, Myrtle Green, Crimson, black and white. Red, white and blue together represent the United States. Green can stand for unity, but in the Iraq Campaign Medal, it represents the traditional color of Islam. Often, ribbons are composed of colors that make up the flag of the country where the fighting took place.

3 Ribbon Precedence

Some ribbons hold precedence over others but generally they are worn in the order in which received. There can be no space between ribbons, and the rack should be in even rows. The highest award in the military is the Medal of Honor, which is a blue ribbon with five white stars in the shape of an “M.” The Medal of Honor is worn around the neck. In order of importance, the next award is a Distinguished Service Cross, which has a red line and a white line on each end, with 1 inch of blue filling the rest. Next is the Distinguished Service Medal, which has a red line and a blue line on the edges with a white band in the center.

4 Current Ribbon Colors

The current ribbons being awarded for serving during a time of war include the Iraq Campaign Medal which has a red line, a white line, a green line and another white line on either side of a band of chamois. The Afghanistan Campaign Medal has a green line, a red line, a black line and a white line on either side of red, white and blue lines in the center.

Natalie Woodhurst is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, former mental-health professional and ISSA Nationally Certified Fitness Trainer who began writing in 2010. Her enthusiasm for fitness and entertainment comes through when writing for various websites. Woodhurst is currently continuing her education in performance nutrition and fitness therapy.