Did you know that anyone can buy a Purple Heart medal? It is true. They are not exclusive property of the United States military. Additionally, you can purchase just about any military service award. This may come in handy if you are an actor who needs to portray a general or a war hero in a play or movie. You could also request custom medals, which can be variations on other iconic service medals. Here is a list of various medals you can buy for costuming purposes.
The Purple Heart
Brand-new Purple Heart medals can vary in cost. If you buy one from a soldier who has quite the iconic moment/story to go with it, then the value far exceeds the manufacturer's price. Otherwise, the medal itself is very affordable.
They are not typically sold in the same presentation cases as the ones medal recipients receive, since this is something that the government does differently. You could buy a used Purple Heart medal from thrift stores, but these are generally inscribed with the name of the original recipient. Additionally, you could alter the appearance of a Purple Heart medal via the manufacturer. They could make the medal any color you want, with any color ribbon you want.
The Bronze Star
If the character you are portraying is a highly decorated officer, the next medal up from the Purple Heart is the Bronze Star. Again, it is awarded for acts of valor in battle. It should be pinned right next to the Purple Heart on your character's soldier's uniform, especially if your character, at any time, points to each medal to tell the audience/remind another character what your character has accomplished.
The Silver Star
The Silver Star is also awarded for gallantry and valor in service. Taking a parcel of land away from the enemy, killing a number of the enemy's soldiers, and/or saving the lives of several of your own fellow soldiers from death earns you the right to claim this medal. Like the Purple Heart, you can purchase this medal, or its subsequent companions for additional acts of valor. The subsequent Silver Star awards have accompanying bronze or silver oak leaf clusters for certain sections of the military, and silver or gold stars in the center of the Silver Star for the remaining branches.
The Distinguished Service Cross
If your character has medals draped all over his/her chest, then you probably will want one of the highest awards military officers can receive. The Distinguished Service Cross, is meant for any solider/officer who has been in more than one conflict and has proven time and again that he/she is fearless in battle. Buying this medal for your costume shows anyone in the audience that your character is truly an exemplary soldier.
Customization of Military Medals
So very many military medals have been changed and transformed through the decades. (Some, like the Purple Heart, were once just cloth with a pin backing.) Whether their ribbons changed color, pattern, or shape, or the medals themselves were altered, they constantly took on new forms.
Likewise, you can also alter any medals you order. Maybe your character is serving in an imaginary post-apocalyptic society, where the war medals look very little like today's medals. Maybe the government created a unique medal just for your character because of something very unique and amazing that your character did.
If the story line of your movie or play calls for it, a company that makes custom medals can make it. For inspiration and how to request a custom military service medal, look up information on how service medals have changed. That will help you design something for the manufacturer to use to create the medal.