The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is a military decoration of the United States Department of Defense, which is presented to United States Armed Forces service members for exceptionally distinguished performance of duty contributing to the national security or defense of the United States. The medal was created on July 9, 1970, by President Richard Nixon in Executive Order 11545. President Nixon awarded the first medal, on the day the Executive Order was signed, to General Earle Wheeler, who was retiring from the US Army after serving as Chief of Staff of the United States Army and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
|Defense Distinguished Service Medal|
|Type||Distinguished service medal|
|Awarded for||Exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility|
|Presented by||United States Department of Defense|
|Eligibility||United States Armed Forces servicemembers|
|Clasps||Oak leaf clusters for subsequent awards|
|Established||July 9, 1970|
|First awarded||General Earle Wheeler (1970)|
|Next (higher)||Army: Distinguished Service Cross |
Navy and Marine Corps: Navy Cross
Air Force and Space Force: Air Force Cross
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Cross
|Equivalent||Department of Homeland Security: Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal|
|Next (lower)||Army: Army Distinguished Service Medal |
Navy and Marine Corps: Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force and Space Force: Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is the United States Department of Defense's highest non-combat related military award and it is the highest joint service decoration. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is awarded only while assigned to a joint activity. Normally, such responsibilities deserving of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal are held by the most senior officers such as the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chiefs and vice chiefs of the military services, and commanders and deputy commanders of the Combatant Commands, the Director of the Joint Staff, and others whose duties bring them frequently into direct contact with the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and other senior government officials. In addition, the medal may also be awarded to other service members whose direct and individual contributions to national security or national defense are recognized as being so exceptional in scope and value as to be equivalent to contributions normally associated with positions encompassing broader responsibilities.
This decoration takes precedence over the Distinguished Service Medals of the services and is not to be awarded to any individual for a period of service for which an Army, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal is awarded.
The medal is gold in color and on the obverse it features a medium blue enameled pentagon (point up). Superimposed on this is an American bald eagle with wings outspread facing left grasping three crossed arrows in its talons and on its breast is a shield of the United States. The pentagon and eagle are enclosed within a gold pieced circle consisting, in the upper half of 13 five-pointed stars and in the lower half, a wreath of laurel on the left and olive on the right. At the top is a suspender of five graduated gold rays. The reverse of the medal has the inscription "For Distinguished Service" at the top in raised letters, and within the pentagon the inscription "FROM THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE TO", all in raised letters.
Additional awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters.
- John Zirkelbach (two awards)