The New Magoo asks about uniforms and accompanying paraphernalia.
“Back in primary school we had a project about WWII. My dad told me about my granddad and I took his medals in and talked about D-Day and tanks and stuff. I remember my teacher saying something along the lines of how a soldier’s medals and his uniform can basically tell you everything you need to know about his career, if you knew what to look for.
So my question is, what can your (or any general non-specific Marine’s ) uniform tell us? What does it all mean?”
In my opinion, your teacher was basically right. Everything you need to know is right there pinned on to the chest. We often refer to awards, ribbons, and badges as “chest candy”. This is because it’s very colorful and much of it doesn’t always mean anything monumentally significant except that America likes to recognize service members with lots of bling (and that’s kind of cool really). It also doesn’t necessarily tell you how “good” someone is at what they do or lend them any credibility.
Here are the basics:
Ribbons and medals can tell you what parts of the world someone has been to or what campaigns they have participated in.
Korean Defense Medal –
Achievement medals and such can be awarded for superior performance over a period of time or for a specific act. If you see a V device on the award you know it was awarded for valor. Valor is one of my favorite words.
The Purple Heart Medal is of course awarded to those wounded in combat.
In the later half of my first Iraq deployment we had pretty much pushed all the bad guys out of our AO. Some of the younger Marines complained they weren’t going to be able to get their Combat Action Ribbon. To my proud surprise some of the slightly older Marines responded with: “Good! Then we’re not doing any memorial services either.”
The Iraqi Campaign Medal is self explanatory I think.
Trying to decipher what all this means could hurt your brain so I like to keep it simple. Let’s stick to the awards someone like me keeps an eye out for. Certain things tell you more about servicemen than you might think.
I am always on the lookout for this ribbon.
It is the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. It tells you the bearer has been deployed overseas. Why is this important? It may or may not surprise some that despite the expeditionary nature of our occupation there are those who put quite a bit of effort into NOT deploying. Some of us read more into the Sea Service ribbon than any number of Navy Achievement Medals. This is what I meant above when I said all you need to know about someone is right there on the chest.
In the Marine Corps, subsequent awards of the same type are displayed on the ribbon as a service star. One silver star equals five bronze stars. You can hang around and do the math if you want to but I generally equate a bunch of stars on an awards to “a lot”.
On our Service A and Dress Blue uniforms you may notice diagonal service stripes we refer to as “hash marks”. In the Marine Corps each stripe represents four years of service.
There are also Distinguished Marksmanship badges but if your Sea Service Deployment Ribbon doesn’t have stars falling off I really don’t want to hear about it. It’s great that you shot up the Division Rifle Matches but those skills are probably best demonstrated on the Taliban next time.
And finally, no, there are no medals for zombie slaying. Killing zombies is its own reward.