The Defense Superior Service Medal &
The Legion of Merit

By:  Marv Rodney

The Defense Superior Service Medal is a senior U.S. military decoration of the Department of Defense awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who perform, “superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility.”  The DSSM is specifically intended to recognize exceptionally superior service, and to honor an individual’s accomplishments over a sustained period of time.  The decoration is most often presented to senior flag officers as well as general officer grades and  presented in the name of the Secretary of Defense.   It was established by President Ford on February 6, 1976 and is somewhat analogous to the Legion of Merit, albeit awarded for service in a “joint” duty capacity.  Notable recipients include:  Brigadier General Susan Desjardins (USAF); Col Patrick Forrester (Army, NASA astronaut); and Colonel Curtis Brown (USAF, NASA astronaut).

The Legion of Merit is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.  Issued to both U.S. military personnel and to military and political figures of foreign governments, it is one of only two U.S. military decorations to be issued as a neck order (the other being the Medal of Honor) and the only U.S. decoration which may be issued in award degrees, which are Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire. It is sixth in order of precedence of U.S. military decorations.

In contemporary use in the U.S. armed forces, the Legion of Merit is typically awarded to very senior officers occupying command or very high staff positions in their respective services.  It may also be awarded to officers of lesser rank and senior enlisted personnel but these instances are less frequent and circumstances vary by service.  Notable recipients are:  Admiral Michael Mullen (CNO/CJCS); General John Abizaid (former Commander, U.S. Central Command); Congressman John Kline (U.S. Congress – 1994 – present); Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek; General Charles De Gaulle; and Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Royal Air Force, for his part in Operation Telic / Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This article was first printed in the ENDEAVOR news magazine, October 2011.  ENDEAVOR can be seen on this website.











 Defense Superior Service Medal

The Legion of Merit

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia


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