Humanitarian Service Medal

Humanitarian Service Medal

Obverse and reverse of the Humanitarian Service Medal
Awarded by Department of Defense
Type Single-grade Medal
Eligibility Military personnel only
Awarded for Meritorious participation in a significant military act or operation of a humanitarian nature, or have rendered a special service to humankind.
Status Currently awarded
Established Executive Order 11965, January 19, 1977
Next (higher) Armed Forces Service Medal[1]
Next (lower) Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal[1]
Related Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service

Ribbon for the Humanitarian Service Medal

The Humanitarian Service Medal (HSM) is a military service medal of the United States Armed Forces which was created on January 19, 1977 by President Gerald Ford under Executive Order 11965. This medal is awarded to any member of the United States military (including Reserve and National Guard members) who distinguish themselves by meritorious participation in specified military acts or operations of a humanitarian nature.[2][3]


This medal is presented as an individual service medal. The activities in which the Humanitarian Service Medal may be authorized are designated by the United States Department of Defense. Such activities include natural disaster relief, evacuation of non-combatants from a hostile area, or humanitarian support to refugees. This medal may not be awarded for services rendered in domestic disturbances involving law enforcement, riots, or protection of property. This medal may also not be presented if either the Armed Forces Service Medal or Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal was presented for the same period of service.[4]

The Humanitarian Service Medal is retroactive to April 1, 1975. Multiple awards of the medal are authorized with service stars denoting additional awards. The Department of the Army awards the Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service for similar service by Army civilian employees, as well as private American and foreign citizens.[5]


Centered on the obverse of the medal within a circle, is a right hand pointing diagonally upward with open palm, (to symbolize a giving or helping hand). At the top of the reverse of the medal is the inscription, For Humanitarian Service in three lines. Below this is an oak branch, with three leaves and three acorns, and below this, around the outside edge of the medal, is the inscription, United States Armed Forces.[2]


  1. 1 2 Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "Department of Defense Manual Number 1348.33, Volume 2" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. p. 71. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  2. 1 2 Institute of Heraldry Humanitarian Service Medal
  3. Air Force Personal Center Humanitarian Service Medal
  4. 578.35 Humanitarian Service Medal
  5. "Army Regulation 672–20 Incentive Awards" (PDF). Headquarters, Department of the Army. 29 January 1999. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
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