The U.S. Navy can award a variety of ribbons to the dedicated men and women who serve. Ribbons are small rectangular bars, worn horizontally and attached to the uniform with specially made ribbon bars. The wearing of the Navy uniform, including ribbons, is governed by regulations. Ribbons worn on the uniform must be in order of precedence. U.S. Navy personnel who earn awards from other branches of service may also wear those ribbons, but they must be below the ribbons awarded by the Navy.
The highest ribbon is the Medal of Honor, which features white stars on a field of medium blue. The Navy Cross has a narrow band of white centered vertically on a background of dark blue. The Defense Distinguished Medal has a narrow red bar in the center, flanked by yellow bars, which are, in turn, flanked by light blue bars. The Distinguished Service Medal has a pale yellow bar in the center with a dark blue bar on each side. The Silver Star has a thin red bar in the center, white bars on either side and dark blue bars, each bisected by a thin white line, at the ends.
In addition to the medals listed above, you may see veterans wearing a number of other medals as well. The Legion of Merit is red with thin white bars at each end. The Bronze Star features a dark blue bar between two very thin white lines on a field of red. The Purple Heart is purple, tipped at each end with white. A Prisoner of War (POW) medal has a black center with alternating bands of white, red and blue going out to the edges. Service in Korea is recognized with a turquoise ribbon with a white center bar. The Vietnam Service ribbon features stripes of yellow, red and green.
Members of the Navy who serve in Afghanistan earn a ribbon of many stripes -- red, black, blue, green and cream. Service in Iraq is recognized with a ribbon that has a pale yellow bar in the center flanked by stripes of black, white, green and red. The U.S. Navy has long had a presence throughout the world and there are awards that recognize service in many different geographical locations and for combat as well as peacetime missions.