Wearing Civilian Honors to a Military Ball (Ask Molly)

We military folk, even some of us family members, enjoy a good protocol question. When my husband first joined the military, I recall devouring the details in The Army Wife’s Handbook, only to learn with great disappointment that I really would not be needing those calling cards. But at least we have military balls in all of their tradition and glory.

A reader who has received two civilian honors for her service to her husband’s units asked this question about wearing her awards:

Dear Molly,

My husband and I have an Army ball to attend on Friday and I have a question about wearing two awards that I received at my last post. I received both the Molly Pitcher and Commander’s Award for Civil Service awards at our final ball on our last post. That night I wore both around my neck but remember seeing prior recipients wearing their Molly awards pinned to their dress with a red ribbon behind. First do I have to wear my awards? I would like to wear them but don’t know protocol on wearing awards. Is it proper or acceptable to wear my specific awards on my wrist? I am wearing a strapless dress on Friday and it’s beaded at the top. I am not sure how to affix them to this particular dress. If not on my wrist, can I wear them pinned at the waste? Lastly, the Molly Pitcher came on a thin red ribbon and Commanders award is on a thick blue ribbon. When affixing them to a dress, is the size of the ribbon important?

Huh.  I was stumped!

I knew that civilians never have to wear anything but as to how to wear two awards, I hadn’t a clue.  I know that one usually only wears one honor around one’s neck, that being the higher award.  I also knew that I had both a chain and a brass ribbon-style pin for my Molly Pitcher award, which could be pinned to the bodice of a dress.  As to the rest though, I needed to call in a higher authority.

So, I wrote to the Field Artillery Association and received this response:

Unlike military members, there is not a requirement for civilians to wear awards.

The Commander’s Award for Civilian Service is only affixed to a ribbon to avoid the awkwardness of the presenter attempting to pin it on a lady. If she opts to wear it; the smaller lapel pin (which should have come with the larger medal) may work best.

If it were me, I would forego wearing both awards to the Army Ball (most of us do) with the exception of wearing the Molly Pitcher award to balls/ceremonies wherein the award will be presented to others (e.g., St. Barbara’s Balls.) If she desires to wear both awards, it is certainly appropriate, but not the norm.

I hope this helps. The medal/lapel can be worn anywhere on your dress.

So there you have it!

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One comment

  1. Steph says:

    Which side do I wear my Molly Pitcher award left or right (on the gold bow pin)?