The Cold War Victory Medal is both an official medal of the National Guard and an unofficial military medal of the United States.
In accordance with section 1084 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1998, Congress commended the members of the Armed Forces and civilian personnel who contributed to what the US government sees as their own historic victory in the Cold War, and authorized and instructed the then-Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, to prepare a certificate recognizing the Cold War service of qualifying members of the Armed Forces and civilian personnel of the Department of Defense and other government agencies. The certificate became known as the Cold War Recognition Certificate available by request of the individual by all members of the armed forces and qualified federal government civilian personnel who honorably served the United States anytime during the Cold War, which is defined as September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991.
In October 2001, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2002, which is signed into law on December 28, 2001 by President George W. Bush. In the NDAA approved by both houses and signed into law by the president, was a Sense of the Congress resolution that the Secretary of Defense should consider authorizing the issuance of a Campaign medal, to be known as the Cold War Service Medal, to each person who while a member of the Armed Forces served satisfactorily on active duty during the Cold War. The then-Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, did not create such a medal.
The National Defense Service Medal is awarded to anyone who serves on active duty in the United States military during the time periods below.
For service in the Gulf War, members of the military Reserve (in good standing) or National Guard were initially awarded the NDSM when called to active duty service, but this was later expanded to include all members of the Reserve or National Guard in good standing on the Reserve Active Status List (or equivalent) during the eligibility period.
For service in the War on Terrorism, Selected Reserve and National Guard members need only to have been in good standing to receive the NDSM, and no active duty service is required. Inactive Ready Reserve and Retired Reserve are not eligible to be awarded the NDSM unless called to active duty.
The National Defense Service Medal is authorized only for the following time periods:
Korean War June 27, 1950 – July 27, 1954
Vietnam War January 1, 1961 – August 14, 1974
Persian Gulf War August 2, 1990 – November 30, 1995
Global War on Terrorism September 11, 2001 – present