Established on August 4, 1949, the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal honors members of the U.S. Coast Guard who perform service of an exceptional nature on behalf of the government in the execution of a significant operation beyond normal duties. It is typically reserved for senior Coast Guard officers. The Secretary of Homeland Security maintains authority for the bestowal of this award.
The medal is bronze and features the image of a ship asail encircled by an inscription reading “U.S. COAST GUARD DISTINGUISHED SERVICE.” The ribbon is blue with a thin vertical white stripe toward each edge followed by a slightly thicker purple stripe.