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Bronze and silver service stars

A service star, also referred to as a battle star, campaign star, or engagement star, is an attachment to a military decoration which denotes participation in military campaigns or multiple bestowals of the same award. Service stars are typically issued for campaign medals, service medals, ribbon awards, and certain military badges. Service stars are different from award stars, which are issued for multiple awards of meritorious and combat decorations.

The United States military issues bronze and silver service stars, with a silver service star issued in lieu of five bronze.

  • Use as a Campaign star: For instance, six campaigns, served on a campaign medal, would be annotated by one silver and one bronze service star. In some situations (e.g., the Southwest Asia Service Medal, which is a campaign medal/ribbon), each recipient is entitled to at least one campaign star. Thus, a Southwest Asia Service Medal without at least one bronze star would be inappropriate.
  • Use as a Service star: For instance, three awards of a Sea Service Ribbon would be annotated by the ribbon with two bronze service stars. In some situations, service stars are only issued after the second award of a decoration.

The United States Army also occasionally issues award numerals or oak leaf clusters, instead of service stars, to denote multiple awards of certain ribbon decorations. In addition to award numerals, the United States Army uses the same Gold award star that is worn on many Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard decorations to denote the tenth and final award of the Army Sea Duty Ribbon. Bronze stars are also used to denote combat jumps on the Jump Wings.

Service stars issued for actions in which a United States Navy vessel participated are also placed on campaign streamers, which are affixed to the U.S. Navy flag. The regulations for this originated in 1942, which defined naval campaign areas and designated engagements. Participation in such engagements, by ships and by individuals, was then denoted by service stars. The United States Army followed a very similar practice with ground campaigns and battle engagements.

A common point of confusion is to confuse bronze and silver service stars with the Silver Star and Bronze Star. The main difference between the two is that the Bronze and Silver Star Medals are individual decorations while service stars are worn on awards and are not individual decorations or medals.

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