What is the Humanitarian Service Medal?


Official DOD Graphic

The Humanitarian Service Medal is a Bronze medallion 1 1/4 inches in diameter with a right hand pointing diagonally upward with an open palm, (to symbolize a giving or helping hand) centered on the front side. At the top of the reverse are the words "For Humanitarian Service" in three lines. Below this is an oak branch, with three leaves and three acorns, and below this, around the outside edge of the medal, is the inscription, "United States Armed Forces."


Official DOD Graphic

The Humanitarian Service Medal’s ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide and has stripes. The first stripe is 3/16 inch of Imperial Purple followed by 1/16 inch of White, 5/16 inch of Bluebird, and a middle stripe of 1/4 inch of Flag Blue. The following stripes are 5/16 inch of Bluebird, 1/16 inch of White; and 3/16 inch Imperial Purple.


The Humanitarian Service Medal honors personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States who distinguished themselves by meritorious direct participation (hands on) in a significant military act or operation of a humanitarian nature, or have rendered a service to mankind. Specifically excluded from eligibility are domestic disturbances involving law enforcement, equal rights to citizens, or protection of properties.
To be awarded the medal the recipient must have been on active duty at the time of the direct participation. Service my cadets in the US Military Academy are included for eligibility. If the use of active force has been approved for an act or operation, members of the National Guard are eligible for the award as well.
Specifically excluded from eligibility are service members or elements remaining at a geographically separated location or to a location and did not make a direct contribution to influence the action.


The Humanitarian Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11965 signed by President Gerald R. Ford on 19 January 1977. This order granted the award for taking part in a significant military act or operation of a humanitarian nature after 1 April 1975.The Department of Defense Directive 1348.25 established the policy and award criteria for the Humanitarian Service Medal on 23 June 1977. The design of Mr. Jay Morris of The Institute of Heraldry was submitted on 18 April 1977 and approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) on 10 May 1977.
Subsequent awards of the Humanitarian Service Medal are indicated by a bronze star worn on the ribbon.
The designated operations for which the Humanitarian Service Medal may be awarded are listed in DOD Manual 1348.33 (M).


An outstretched hand with palm up is the international symbol for aid and assistance. An oak sprig stands for strength passed on through a selfless mission to aid mankind. The purple in the ribbon represents self-sacrifice, white for regeneration and blue for universal friendship. The two shades of blue are the colors used in the flags of OSD.