Origins of the Meritorious Service Medal

Former Catholic military chaplain Father Thomas Maikowski of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church retired from the United States Air Force in October 2009. Before retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel, Father Thomas Maikowski received several awards and medals, including three Meritorious Service Medals, for his performance. Established in 1969, the medal recognizes members of the Armed Forces of the United States for outstanding achievement or meritorious noncombat services.

President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized the Meritorious Service Medal per Executive Order 11448 following a discussion at the 1968 Tri-Department Awards Conference concerning the need for an additional meritorious award in order to honor noncombat achievements. Prior to 1968, no comparable award to the Bronze Star Medal existed for noncombat achievements. For a time, the Legion of Merit award served as a solution. However, the increasing frequency of its usage below its intended standard resulted in a decline in its prestige.

An ad hoc committee formed by the Secretary of Defense to name the award agreed upon “Meritorious Service Medal” in November 1968. Lewis J. King, Jr., sculpted the medal based on a design by Jay Morris. President Ronald Reagan later amended Executive Order 11448 through Executive Order 12312 to authorize presentation of the medal to armed forces members from friendly foreign nations.

In rank, the medal sits below the Legion of Merit, but above the Commendation Medal. It is presented to those who demonstrate exceptional performance of duty and employment of expertise and exhibit the qualities of professionalism and leadership. Father Maikowski first received the award in June 2000.