The War on Terrorism Service Medal was established by Executive Order 13289 signed by President George W. Bush on March 12, 2003 and implemented by a memorandum issued by Charles S. Abell, Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense, on October 28, 2003, subject: "Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals."


Individuals authorized the award of this medal must have participated in or served in support of Global War on Terrorism operations on or after September 11, 2001 and to a future date to be determined.

  • The original intention was that the Secretary of Defense (in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) would, on a case-by-case basis when requested by the Combatant Commanders, designate approved operations.

  • The initial approved operations for the War on Terrorism Service Medal were Airport Security Operations (from September 27, 2001 through May 31, 2002) and for Operations Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle, and Iraqi Freedom.

  • However, the original intentions were eclipsed by the Services when they began publishing directives, messages, and orders specifying that the medal would be awarded to any personnel who performed support duty of an anti-terrorism operation in which they did not directly participate. The term support was watered down to include administrative, logistical, planning, operational, technical, or readiness activities which theoretically provided support to the War on Terrorism. As a result, the medal has become much like the National Defense Service Medal and has largely lost any significant meaning. For the most part, military personnel who have served on active duty for at least thirty days now receive the medal.
  • The War on Terrorism Service Medal may be awarded posthumously;

  • Personnel may receive both the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the War on Terrorism Service Medal if they meet the requirements of both awards; however, the qualifying period used to establish eligibility for one cannot be used to justify eligibility for the other.

  • Each Military Department will prescribe the appropriate regulations for processing and wearing the medal and its appurtenances.

The War on Terrorism Service Medal will be worn after the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and before the Korea Defense Service Medal.

  • Only one award of this medal may be authorized for any individual; therefore, no service stars are prescribed.

  • Although qualifying circumstances would be extremely rare, Battle Stars may be applicable for personnel who were engaged in actual combat against the enemy under circumstances involving grave danger of death or serious bodily injury from enemy action. Only a Combatant Commander can initiate a request for a Battle Star. This request will contain the specific units or individuals engaged in actual combat, the duration for which actual combat was sustained, and a detailed description of the actions against the enemy.

  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the approving authority for the specific Battle Stars.

The War on Terrorism Service Medal was designed by John Sproston of the Army's Institute of Heraldry.



In the center of a bronze disc, an eagle with its wings displayed has a stylized shield of thirteen vertical bars on its breast and is shown holding in its right talon an olive branch and in its left talon three arrows. The eagle is show in front of and below a terrestrial globe and is encircled in the upper two thirds of the medal by the inscription, WAR ON TERRORISM SERVICE MEDAL.

The eagle and shield, adapted from the Great Seal of the United States, represents the United States. They protect the globe above and behind, symbolizing American resolve to combat and overcome global elements of international terrorism. The laurel wreath represents the drive for peace. The three arrows signify vigilance, resolve, and peace.


In the center of the medal is an open laurel wreath on an otherwise plain field.


The ribbon is a field of dark blue; a central stripe of dark blue in the center is bordered by white pinstripes, which are in turn bordered by dark blue pinstripes and three larger stripes of scarlet, gold, and dark blue (the dark blue stripes forming the outer edge of the ribbon). The scarlet, white, and blue represent the United States; the gold signifies excellence.

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