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Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world. A veteran doesn’t have that problem. — Ronald Reagan

May we all keep those who served and sacrificed so much for our freedoms not far from our hearts and minds, never to be forgotten. The honors described here are worn and displayed with great pride by veterans and surviving families. For those who made the ultimate sacrifice, may we honor and remember them on Memorial Day.

The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration. It recognizes U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor in combat. Since 1944, the Medal of Honor has been attached to a light blue colored moiré silk neck ribbon, the center of which displays 13 white stars in the form of three chevrons. The Medal of Honor is one of only two United States military awards suspended from a neck ribbon. Please note that we say an individual is a Medal of Honor “recipient” rather than an “awardee.”

The Purple Heart is the oldest United States military medal. The Badge of Military Merit, the precursor of the Purple Heart, was established by the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, George Washington in 1782. When he was Chief of Staff of the Army, General Douglas MacArthur commissioned a new design of the medal, and by Executive Order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart was revived on the 200th Anniversary of George Washington’s birth in 1932. In 1942, the decoration was applied to all services and authorized only for wounds received at the hands of the enemy where it had previously been awarded for meritorious service as well.  There have been more than 1.8 million recipients of the Purple Heart since its creation.

For the family, these are some of the remembrances the U.S. military offers:

Taps and the Flag

Taps is played as the last bugle call a service member hears at night, and now, it is played to conclude the military funeral. It symbolizes the beginning of their last, long sleep, with confidence in the ultimate reveille to come. As a military funeral ends, the flag that was covering the casket is folded in a triangular shape representing a cocked hat of the American Revolution and presented to the spouse or next of kin with words of appreciation. 

The Gold Star lapel button (a gold star on a purple background) identifies surviving spouses, parents, and immediate family members of service members killed in combat operations. 

Next-of-Kin Deceased lapel button (a gold star on a gold background) is authorized by each respective branch and issued to immediate family members of service members who die while serving outside combat operations.

Blue Star Service Banners, sometimes called Blue Star flags have been hung in the windows of service members’ families since World War I. Each blue star represents one family member serving in the armed forces. A banner can have up to five stars, signifying that five members of that family are currently in military uniform on active duty. 

If an individual symbolized is killed or dies while serving, a gold star of smaller size will be superimposed on the original blue star representing that individual, leaving a blue border. This is the Gold Star Service Banner. On flags displaying multiple stars, including gold stars, when the flags are suspended against a wall, the gold star(s) will be to the right of, or above the blue star(s)—a place of honor nearest the staff. 

The Silver Star Service Banner is reserved for those who have been wounded or contracted a serious illness or injury in a war zone. The Silver Star Service Flag may be flown by anyone as a symbol of remembrance and honor during war or peacetime.

Let us never forget the sacrifices of our military and their families.


  • Protocol and Etiquette Team

    Ann Crossley and Ginger Perkins are the authors of "The Army Spouse Handbook," the go-to guide for the 21st century Army spouse. The 440-page book describes situations that you may encounter as an Army spouse, irrespective of your spouse’s rank or assignment. The book is not meant to be read from cover-to-cover, but kept handy and used as a reference book when you need to know what to expect in social situations. Michelle Hodge, a seasoned spouse, has taught protocol and customs classes and continues to be an advocate for soldiers and family members. Lynda Smith, the newest member of the Traditions and Protocol team, enjoys finding new ways to bring old Army traditions to life with fun and humorous experiences, a little old-school vibe, and a modern twist.

1 Comment

  1. Sharita Knobloch

    Thank you for taking the time to explain and differentiate the various recognition that our Armed Forces utilizes to honor and remember, especially as we approach Memorial Day. Sure appreciate you Michelle, Ann, & Ginger!


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