Awards and Decorations

The Army awards program recognizes excellence and the high levels of performance and service demonstrated by our Soldiers. Awards and decorations provide tangible recognition for acts of valor, exceptional service or achievement, special skills or qualifications and acts of heroism.

Types of Awards

  • Purple Heart:  Awarded to members of the Armed Forces who, while serving under component authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded, was killed, or who has died or may hereafter die of wounds received under any of the criteria outlined in AR 600-8-22 (Military Awards) . The Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not "recommended" for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria
  • Combat Badges, Special Skill Badges and Tabs:  Recognize attainment of a high degree of skill, proficiency, and excellence in tests and competition, as well as in the performance of duties
  • Units Awards: Recognize heroism displayed or meritorious service performed as part of a group effort. Includes Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation and  Army Superior Unit Award
  • Campaign and Service Awards: Denote honorable performance of military duty within limited dates in specified geographical areas. Includes Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Foreign Awards: Tendered by a foreign government recognizing active combat service or outstanding or unusually meritorious performance. Governed by Article I, Section 9, U.S. Constitution; 5 USC 7342; and Public Law 95-105

Award Recommendations and Processing

It is the responsibility of any individual having personal knowledge of an act, achievement, or service believed to warrant the award of a decoration, to submit a formal recommendation into military command channels for consideration. The decision to award an individual a decoration and the decision as to which award is appropriate is made by the commander having award approval authority.

The DA Form 638 (Recommendation for Award) is used to initiate, process, and approve award recommendations of U.S. Army individual decorations. Recommended awards are usually expeditiously processed and recorded in military orders and certificates by the final approving authority within 60 days.  For additional information on how awards are processed, visit the U.S. Army Human Resources Command website .

Purple Heart Applications and Processing

The U.S. Army Human Resources Command (USAHRC) Commander has the authority to approve or disapprove recommendations for service members who did not receive a Purple Heart while serving in a unit with wartime awards approval authority. Any member of the U.S. Army who believes that he or she is eligible for the Purple Heart, but through unusual circumstances no award was made, may submit an application (DA Form 4187 ) through the member’s chain of command to:

Commander, USAHRC
ATTN: Awards and Decorations Branch (AHRC-PDP-A)
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5408

Below are the steps for processing a Purple Heart award:

  • Soldier: Wounded or killed as a result of an action outlined in para 2-8b
  • Recommender: Completes the DA Form 4187 , including an explanation of the sequence of events, medical treatment facility and disposition of the awardee, as well as attaching substantiating documents for presentation to the company commander, OIC, or supervisor
  • CO CDR/OIC/SUPV: Verifies all data on the DA Form 4187 and the enclosures, completes any missing data, and submits completed certified packet to the intermediate commander
  • Intermediate Commander: Verifies the DA Form 4187 packet and endorses action to approval authority
  • Approval Authority: Makes final decision on command endorsement of award (recommends approval/disapproval) and notifies recommender or recommending commander of the final decision, issues PH award certificate and orders along with the medal set, distributes awards approval or disapproval documents into official military personnel file as outlined in Army Regulation (AR) 600-8-104 , and  submits an eMILPO or personnel transaction
  • Unit: Arranges and conducts presentation ceremony consistent with commander’s desire

Related Policies and Resources

Service members requiring assistance on awards and decorations can visit their military personnel office. For additional information, reference the following resources:

Frequently Asked Questions

What Army Regulation (AR) covers military awards?
What are the categories of individual awards?
What is the time limitation for award recommendations?
Can enlisted awardees receive increased retired pay based on decorations?
Can a service member request a Purple Heart?

What Army Regulation (AR) covers military awards?

AR 600-8-22, Military Awards

What are the categories of individual awards?

Individual awards are grouped into the following categories:  Decorations, Good Conduct Medal, campaign and service medals, service ribbons, badges and tabs, and certificates and letters.

What is the time limitation for award recommendations?

Each recommendation for an award of military decoration must be entered administratively into military channels within 2 years of the act, achievement, or service to be honored. This time limit does not apply to the Purple Heart.  The Purple Heart may be awarded at anytime after submission of documented proof that criteria have been met. 

Can enlisted awardees receive increased retired pay based on decorations?

10 USC 3991 provides that any enlisted member who is credited with extraordinary heroism in the line of duty who retires after 20 or more years of active Federal service, is entitled to a 10 percent increase in retired pay, subject to the 75 percent limit on total retired pay.  Recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross satisfy the requirement for extraordinary heroism.   

Can a service member request a Purple Heart?

Any member of the U.S. Army who believes that he or she is eligible for the Purple Heart, but through unusual circumstances no award was made, may submit an application through the member’s chain of command to:

Commander, USAHRC
ATTN: Awards and Decorations Branch (AHRC-PDP-A)
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5408

Return to top of page