Decorations and Medals, awards granted for heroism, self-sacrifice, outstanding achievement, or other forms of service. They are most often awarded to members of the armed forces in time of war. Some are granted for military service in peacetime and others are awarded to civilians for meritorious service in peace or war.

The Presidential Medal of FreedomThe Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian award.

The terms decoration and medal are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, however, a decoration is an award given for an act of heroism or gallantry, while a medal is given for taking part in a certain war or campaign. (This distinction is not observed by the United States.) Medals are also awarded by civilian organizations, for outstanding achievement in some specific field.

A decoration or medal usually consists of a metal star, cross, circle, or other device hanging from a colored ribbon. Members of the armed forces wear these awards only on formal occasions. At other times they wear small service ribbons of the same color and pattern as the ribbon from which the medal hangs. Miniature medals may be worn on evening dress uniforms. Lapel buttons or rosettes may be worn on civilian clothing.