The Humanitarian Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11965 signed by President Gerald R. Ford on January 19, 1977.


The Humanitarian Service Medal has been awarded for qualifying service since April 1, 1975.


The Humanitarian Service Medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States and their Reserve components who, subsequent to April 1, 1975, distinguish themselves as individuals or as members of United States military units or ships by meritorious, direct, non-routine participation in specified significant military acts or operations of a humanitarian nature. The Humanitarian Service Medal may not be awarded for services rendered in domestic disturbances involving law enforcement, equal rights demonstrations, or protection of property. The Humanitarian Service Medal is awarded for the following types of military acts or operations:
  • Significant assistance in national; or international disasters (natural or man-made, such as (but not limited to) earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, or conflagrations;

  • Relief to a starvation area;

  • Evacuation of personnel from an area threatened by a hostile force;

  • Support or resettlement of refugees or evacuees;

  • Other significant military activities, directly related to humanitarian service as designated in Military Service regulations; or,

  • Acts or operations of a similar nature, as determined by the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.


The Humanitarian Service Medal is worn after the Armed Forces Service Medal and before the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.


Additional awards of the Humanitarian Service Medal are denoted by bronze stars.


The Humanitarian Service Medal was designed by Arnold P. Simmons.


The identity of the first recipient of the Humanitarian Service Medal is unknown.



In the center of a bronze medallion one and a quarter inches in diameter, an open right hand is displayed with the palm facing forward. The hand is at a 45 degree angle with the wrist at the five o'clock position and is contained within a continuous circle. The hand is the "helping hand" of the United States Armed Forces. The circle in which it is contained represents constant readiness to provide assistance.


In the center of a bronze medallion one and a quarter inches in diameter, there is a spray of oak containing three acorns. Above the spray of oak the words FOR HUMANITARIAN SERVICE (in three lines); below the spray of oak, and following the contour of the bottom half of the medal, the words UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES. The oak refers to strength.


The ribbon to the Humanitarian Service Medal consists of a center stripe of black flanked by blue which is edged in white on the outside. The ribbon has purple edge stripes. The purple represents self-sacrifice; the white stands for regeneration, and the blue represents benevolence and universal friendship. The black represents distress, which humanitarian service seeks to relieve.

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