The Defense Distinguished Service Medal: 10 Cool Facts

The Defense Distinguished Service Medals is one of the highest awards given to members of the armed forces. There have been some highly recognized names who have received this award in history. People such as:

In today’s post, we are going to provide 10 cool facts about the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

1: When the award was established.

On July 9th, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed Executive Order #11545 which established the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

2: The first recipient.

The first person to be awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal was General Earle Wheeler. General Wheeler served as the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1962-1964 and then he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1964-1970. He was very vocal about more troops and supplies during the height of the Vietnam War. He wanted to protect ground troops to higher levels.

3: Non-combat award.

The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is the highest non-combat award that any military personnel can receive. The medal that would be given if during a combat situation would be the Distinguished Service Medal.

4: Joint service.

The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is only awarded to military personnel who are serving in a joint service position. Military personnel from any of the armed forces can be given this award if performing extraordinary duties in joint service.

5: National defense and/or security.

The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to individuals who go above and beyond their normal duties and responsibilities to provide measures that bolster or aid the United States national defense or security.

6: The Secretary of Defense.

While the majority of other military awards are given from recommendations, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal has only one person who both chooses and gives the award. The United States Secretary of Defense has this duty. This is why so few of this award has been awarded. At the time of writing this article, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has not awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to anyone.

7: Uniform precedence.

When displaying the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, it sets high in precedence. It is directly above a Distinguished Service Medal from any of the Armed Branches. It is directly below either:

  • the Army Distinguished Service Cross

  • the Navy Cross

  • the Air Force Cross

  • or the Coast Guard Cross

8: The design of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

Mildred Orloff and Lewis King Jr. from the Institute of Heraldry worked together in the development of this magnificent medal. Orloff designed it and King sculpted it. The medal is gold colored and has a blue pentagon overlaid with the American Bald Eagle grasping 3 arrows and has a shield for a breastplate. A circle surrounds these with a wreath at the bottom and 13 stars at the top. The reverse of the medal has the inscription:

For Distinguished Service (top)

From The Secretary Of Defense To: (middle)

The name of the recipient can then be engraved in it.

9: Female recipients.

While the number is few, I would like to point out the females who have been given this honor. They are:

  1. Vice Admiral Nancy Brown. As principal adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vice Admiral Brown received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for her service on the Global War on Terror.

  2. Captain Laurel Clark. Captain Clark was a medical doctor and one of the astronauts who died upon the Space Shuttle Columbia. She was posthumously awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

  3. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. They had 2 well known nicknames for this amazing woman. I mentioned amazing because she was Amazing Grace to many and Grandma Cobol to others. It is this woman who was a lead figure in military computer systems.

  4. Lieutenant General Leslie Kenne. Lt General Kenne was directly responsible for greater effectiveness in air and space power for national objectives. She formed and executed policies that were timely and needed.

  5. Rear Admiral Deborah Loewer. Then Captain Loewer was traveling with President Bush when news of the terrible terrorist attacks on September 11th occurred. She sprinted to provide word to the President.

  6. Vice Admiral Ann Rondeau. Vice Admiral Rondeau has served in many top leadership positions in the United States Navy. Her last duty was President of National Defense University.

  7. Vice Admiral Patricia Tracey. She served as Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon, and is a leader of leaders.

  8. Brigadier General Wilma Vaught. This great woman served in a variety of command positions. Most notably, she was the senior military representative to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

All of these women have gone far above their call of duty.

10: # of recipients and the last one.

If my figures are correct, there have been 438 recipients of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal since it was introduced in 1970. The last person to receive the award was given it from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The recipients name is Admiral Robert Papp Jr and he was the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.

Final Words

Because of these men and women, our military is the best in the world. We owe a great thanks to these superb leaders. Everyone who has been awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal has stood out enough that our Secretary of Defense was impressed. This means they have performed to an extent that they are bettering our military through defense and security strategies which will keep us all safe.

If you know someone who has been awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, or you have received it please tell us in the comment section below about them and their award.

We at Part Time Commander want to thank all who have been awarded this prestigious medal for your wonderful dedication and service to our military and the safety of the United States of America.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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