The National Defense Medal, which had been issued to service members of all branches during designated periods of war, will no longer be issued after December 31st, 2022. The Department of Defense made the decision after the U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan in 2021, ending America’s longest conflict.
The National Defense Medal was automatically awarded after a servicemember completed their training and entered regular duty. Affectionately known as the “pizza stain”, the medal was issued during the following periods of conflict:
The Korean War, Jun. 27 1950- Jul. 27 1954
The Vietnam Conflict, Jan. 1 1961- Aug. 14 1974
The Gulf War, Aug. 2 1990- Nov. 30 1995
The Global War on Terrorism, Sept. 11 2001-Dec. 31, 2022.
The discontinuing of it’s issuance is a reminder that major combat operations have ended for the United States. Though the U.S. is still involved in counter-terrorism actions, the majority of combat troops will not be involved in these operations.
I remember being issued the National Defense Award in 1991, though I was not deployed to Iraq during the Gulf War. It was a generic medal, that everyone was awarded, like the Army Service Ribbon for us soldiers.
Awards are important for the morale of the military. I’ve known many Army personnel who strived for perfection, not only to rank up, but to also receive awards and to better themselves as soldiers. It is very time consuming to learn about leadership, take classes and pass exams to become an NCO. It is even harder to be deployed to a combat zone, engage enemies, survive, then come back home possibly broken, both in body and mind. Awards for a combat veteran are signs of respect. In addition to these wards, more needs to be done to help heal our American veterans. See the links in the Resources page of this site.