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Defense Distinguished Service Medal

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
TypeDistinguished service medal
Awarded forExceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility
Presented byUnited States Department of Defense[1]
EligibilityUnited States Armed Forces service members
ClaspsOak leaf cluster for subsequent awards
StatusCurrently awarded
EstablishedJuly 9, 1970
First awardedGeneral Earle Wheeler (1970)
Next (higher)Army: Distinguished Service Cross
Naval Service: Navy Cross
Air and Space Forces: Air Force Cross
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Cross
EquivalentDepartment of Homeland Security: Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal
Next (lower)Army: Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
Naval Service: Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air and Space Forces: Distinguished Service Medal (Air and Space Forces)
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal

The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is a military decoration of the United States Department of Defense, which is presented to United States Armed Forces service members for exceptionally distinguished performance of duty contributing to the national security or defense of the United States. The medal was created on July 9, 1970, by President Richard Nixon in Executive Order 11545.[2] President Nixon awarded the first medal, on the day the Executive Order was signed, to General Earle Wheeler, who was retiring from the US Army after serving as Chief of Staff of the United States Army and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It is equivalent to the United States Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal.



The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is the United States Department of Defense's highest non-combat related military award and it is the highest joint service decoration. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is awarded only while assigned to a joint activity. Normally, such responsibilities deserving of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal are held by the most senior officers such as the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chiefs and vice chiefs of the military services, and commanders and deputy commanders of the Combatant Commands, the Director of the Joint Staff, and others whose duties bring them frequently into direct contact with the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and other senior government officials. In addition, the medal may also be awarded to other service members whose direct and individual contributions to national security or national defense are recognized as being so exceptional in scope and value as to be equivalent to contributions normally associated with positions encompassing broader responsibilities.[3]

This decoration takes precedence over the Distinguished Service Medals of the services and is not to be awarded to any individual for a period of service for which an Army, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal is awarded.



The medal is gold in color and on the obverse it features a medium blue enameled pentagon (point up). Superimposed on this is an American bald eagle with wings outspread facing left grasping three crossed arrows in its talons and on its breast is a shield of the United States. The pentagon and eagle are enclosed within a gold pieced circle consisting, in the upper half of 13 five-pointed stars and in the lower half, a wreath of laurel on the left and olive on the right. At the top is a suspender of five graduated gold rays. The reverse of the medal has the inscription "For Distinguished Service" at the top in raised letters, and within the pentagon the inscription "FROM THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE TO", all in raised letters.

Additional awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters.

Notable recipients


- John Zirkelbach (two awards)


  1. ^ "Issuances" (PDF). 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-12. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  2. ^ Air Force Personnel Center Defense Distinguished Service Medal Archived 2011-06-16 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Defense Distinguished Service Medal". Decorations and Awards: U.S. Armed Forces and Department of Defense Decorations. The Institute of Heraldry. Archived from the original on 2013-05-18. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  4. ^ "Jeremy Boorda - Recipient - Military Times Hall Of Valor". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  5. ^ "General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC". Marine Corps Museum. Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  6. ^ "Lt. Gen. Flynn retires from DIA, 33-year Army career". Archived from the original on 2017-02-26. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  7. ^ UPI (15 August 1986). "Computer Whiz Retires from Navy". Detroit Free Press. p. 4A. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  8. ^ "Daniel James , Jr., Awards and Citations". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  9. ^ "2000 ADM Larson". Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
  10. ^ "General Carl E. Mundy, Jr. - Retired, 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps". Senior Leader Services Portal, USMC. Archived from the original on 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  11. ^ "Carl Trost is set for March 2". Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  12. ^ "Defense Distinguished Service Medal Criteria, History and Recipients". 1970-07-09. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
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Defense Distinguished Service Medal
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