Meritorious Service Medal

Establishing Authority 

The Meritorious Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11448, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on January 16, 1969.

Effective Dates 

The Meritorious Service Medal has been in effect since January 16, 1969.


The Meritorious Service Medal may be awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves by outstanding noncombat achievement or by meritorious service to the United States, but not of a degree that would warrant the award of the Legion of Merit.

Order of Precedence 

The Meritorious Service Medal is worn after the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and before the Air Medal.

  • Army and Air Force: Additional awards are denoted by oak leaf clusters.
  • Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard: Additional awards are denoted by gold stars. For the Coast Guard, the Operational Distinguishing "O" Device may be awarded.
Designer and Sculptor 

The Meritorious Service Medal was designed by Jay Morris and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr., both of the Army's Institute of Heraldry.

First Recipient

The first recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal was Commander Frank W. Hannegan, US Navy, on March 27, 1969.

Description and Symbolism


A bronze medal one and a half inches in diameter overall consisting of six rays issuant from the upper three points of a five-pointed star with beveled edges and containing two smaller stars defined by incised outlines. In front of the lower part of the medal there is an eagle with its wings displayed. It is standing on two upward curving branches of laurel tied with a ribbon between the eagle's feet.

The eagle, symbol of the nation, stands on laurel branches denoting achievement. The star is used to represent the military service and the rays emanating therefrom denote the constant efforts of individuals to achieve through excellent and meritorious service.


The reverse is blank except for a circle consisting of the raised inscription, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (at the top) and MERITORIOUS SERVICE (at the bottom). The two portions of the inscription are separated by bullets, and the space inside the circle is to be used for engraving the recipient's name.


The ribbon is ruby red with two white stripes, just inside each edge. The ribbon was suggested by that of the Legion of Merit.