Established on July 19, 1932, the Silver Star Medal honors United States military members who demonstrate gallantry or heroism in combat; it may also be awarded for service with friendly foreign militaries. It is the third most prestigious award recognizing acts of valor and replaced the earlier Citation Star. The Army and Air Force omit the “Medal” from the name of the award; the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard do not.
Qualifying actions must entail combat operations and be of a lesser degree than would warrant the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, or Navy Cross.
The medal is gold and in the shape of a five-pointed star with a smaller, silver star in the center encircled by a laurel wreath. The ribbon is blue and is bisected by a thin vertical red stripe flanked on either side by a thin white stripe; a thin white line appears toward each edge.
Additional awards may be indicated by oak leaf clusters or service stars.