Troops Who Supported 2017 Hurricane Relief Now Eligible for Medal

Humanitarian Service Medal (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
Humanitarian Service Medal (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are now eligible for the Humanitarian Service Medal for their disaster relief efforts in response to Hurricanes Matthew, Harvey, Irma and Maria, according to the service branches.

The eligibility requirements can vary among the service branches, and service members were advised to check with their superiors. For instance, the Army said that eligibility applied only to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and not to Hurricane Matthew.

As a general rule, eligibility for the medal requires that the service member "directly participated in the humanitarian act or operation during the periods listed and [was] physically present in the affected area," according to the notice from the Army, which was similar to that of the other services.

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For Hurricane Matthew, eligibility dates were Oct. 4-19 for service members who were physically present in the vicinity of Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Eligible dates for participation during Hurricane Harvey were Aug. 23-Oct. 31 in about 40 Texas counties and 12 Louisiana parishes.

The eligibility dates for both Hurricanes Irma and Maria were Sept. 8-Oct. 20 for the entire state of Florida, Caribbean islands and the adjacent waters near Barbados, Anguilla and the Florida Straits.

The Humanitarian Service Medal was created by executive order in 1977 by President Gerald Ford to recognize any service member, including those in the Reserves and National Guard, for meritorious service in humanitarian relief efforts.

The Army established that acceptable evidence must exist to substantiate eligibility for the award. The acceptable evidence includes: certificates, letters of commendation or appreciation; officer or enlisted evaluation reports; and copies of temporary duty or special duty orders reflecting participation within the specified timeframe and geographical location cited.

Other acceptable evidence includes: after-action reports, situation reports, rosters, unit files, or any other records or documentation which verifies the soldier's participation; and statements from commanders, supervisors, or other officials who were in a position to substantiate the soldier's direct participation in the area of operations.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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