Many people will come across Grandpa’s war medals in a drawer and have no
idea about the proper way to mount military medals and devices. With
proper mounting and framing, you can create an heirloom that will last for
many successive generations, or at least until one of your descendants sells
them for drug money.
One nice feature of the military is that they have medals that show the
history of the ancestor, colorful hieroglyphs that what show all "been
there, done that" as well as awards for bravery and valor.
Military ribbons and medals tell a story. For example, below you
can see that this person was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice as
well as the Bronze Star and Air Medal. They were once an enlisted man
in the Army Air Corp. (as seen from the Army Good Conduct medal), and they
were in the Philippines in 1942, fought in the Pacific theater in WWII,
served in Occupied Japan, fought in the Korean war, and served in the Air
Military ribbons tell a story
Framing military medals
This is a step-by-step guide for mounting and displaying military medals.
To frame military medals properly you need a few important prerequisites for
displaying military medals and awards:
- Get the original military records: You can
file a freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to St. Louis to get the
accurate military service records. The DD-214 is almost always
an accurate record of the actual rank and medals won, but there are rare
vases as noted in the book “Stolen Valor”, where the DD-214 records are
altered by dishonest servicemen.
- Get the rank insignia: Once you know the rank
of your ancestor, you can purchase brand new rank and hat insignia from
third party sources and eBay.
- Get the complete set of medals: If the DD214
military records indicate that the medals were not awarded, you can send
St. Louis an affidavit that you are the heir to the military person and
mail you a set of all of your ancestors service medals for free!
- Get supplemental medals: If your military
ancestor has multiple ancestors, you can purchase additional copies of
ribbons and "miniature medals" for mess dress uniforms from third
- Get unit patches: With a little research, you can
get military unit patches from sources such as eBay. Some military
unit patches are quite attractive and creative:
- Get foreign medals: Many conflicts have
medals awarded by foreign governments (Korea, United Nations, France,
etc.) and you will need to purchase these from a third party.
- Get the sequencing of awards: Military awards
and displayed in a specific order, with the highest medals to the top
left. One good way to see the order is to build a “ribbon
rack” for your ancestor, using an online tool:
Framing military medals for display
Framing military medals is important, especially if you expect the awards
to last for a few generations. I like to get the
porcelain photos available for
tombstones where you can add a photograph of your military ancestor in an
archival form that will last for centuries.
I recommend a hardwood shadowbox made from a dense hard wood such as
walnut. Also make sure to use a non-UV glass so that the colors do not
fade over the centuries.
I also recommend having the medals sewn to the background fabric to avoid
movement and shifting over the years.
Below is a sample I did using original medals supplemented by a brand new
ribbon rack and mess dress miniature medals:
Here is another example of framed military medals using the original