Awards, Badges & Commendations

Eldon Bargewell enlisted in the US Army in 1967. He served two tours in Vietnam, where he was awarded the nation’s second highest medal for valor, the Army Distinguished Service Cross. When Major General Bargewell retired in 2006, he was the most decorated active duty soldier.


Combat and Operations Tours


Army Distinguished Service Cross


Badges and Commendations




Career Timeline

Major General Eldon Bargewell

The Distinguished Service Cross

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army (and previously, the United States Army Air Forces). It is awarded for extraordinary heroism:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations but do not merit award of the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross is equivalent to the Navy Cross (Navy and Marine Corps, and Coast Guard when operating under the authority of the Department of the Navy) and the Air Force Cross (Air Force).

Army Distinguished Service Cross Medal
Major General Eldon A. Bargewell

Eldon A. Bargewell

PLACE OF BIRTH: Tacoma, Washington

HOME OF RECORD: Hoquiam, Washington

Awarded for Actions During Vietnam War

Service: Army

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Division: 1st Special Forces

GENERAL ORDERS: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 3391 (November 30, 1971)

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Staff Sergeant Eldon A. Bargewell, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Command and Control (North), Task Force 1, Studies and Observations Group, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, attached to U.S. Army Vietnam Training Advisory Group (TF1AE), U.S. Army Vietnam Training Support Headquarters. Staff Sergeant Bargewell distinguished himself on 27 September 1971 while serving as a member of a long range reconnaissance team operating deep in enemy territory. On that date, his team came under attack by an estimated 75 to 100 man enemy force. Staff Sergeant Bargewell suffered multiple fragmentation wounds from an exploding B-40 rocket in the initial assault, but despite the serious wounds, placed a deadly volume of machine gun fire on the enemy line. As the enemy advanced, he succeeded in breaking the assault and forced them to withdraw with numerous casualties. When the enemy regrouped, they resumed their assault on the beleaguered team, placing a heavy volume of small arms and automatic weapons fire on Staff Sergeant Bargewell’s sector of the defensive perimeter. Again he exposed himself to the enemy fire in order to hold his position and prevent the enemy from overrunning the small team. After breaking the enemy assault, the team withdrew to a nearby guard. At the landing zone, Staff sergeant Bargewell refused medical treatment in order to defend a sector of the perimeter, and insured the safe extraction of his team. Staff Sergeant Bargewell’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. (Ref. Hall of Valor: The Military Medals Database)

In his own words…

In this video, Major General Eldon Bargewell describes the military operation for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Badges and Commendations

Tap or click the text (or image) for more information on the badge/commendation.

Special Forces Collar Insignia

Special Forces Collar Insignia

Defense Superior Service Medal

Defense Superior Service Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster (earned 5 times)

Bronze Star Medal

Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and silver oak leaf cluster (earned 3 for Valor and 4 for service)

Purple Heart

Purple Heart with three oak leaf clusters (earned 4 times)

Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal with “V” device and oak leaf cluster

National Defense Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with Arrowhead device and service star

Vietnam Service Medal

Vietnam Service Medal with six service stars

Arrowhead Device

The Arrowhead device is a miniature bronze arrowhead that may be worn on campaign, expedition, and service medals and ribbons to denote participation in an amphibious assault landing, combat parachute jump, helicopter assault landing, or combat glider landing by a service member of the United States Army or United States Air Force.

V Device
A “V” device is a metal 1⁄4-inch (6.4 mm) capital letter “V” with serifs which, when worn on certain decorations awarded by the United States Armed Forces, distinguishes an award for heroism or valor in combat instead of for meritorious service or achievement.
Service Stars

A service star is a miniature bronze or silver five-pointed star 3⁄16 inch (4.8 mm) in diameter that is authorized to be worn by members of the eight uniformed services of the United States on medals and ribbons to denote an additional award or service period. The service star may also be referred to as a campaign star or battle star depending on which award authorized the star and the manner in which the device is used for the award.

Oak Leaf Clusters
An oak leaf cluster is a ribbon device to denote subsequent decorations and awards consisting of a miniature bronze or silver twig of four oak leaves with three acorns on the stem that is authorized by the United States Armed Forces as for a specific set of decorations and awards of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and Department of the Air Force. The bronze oak leaf cluster represents one additional award, while the silver oak leaf cluster is worn in lieu of five bronze oak leaf clusters.


Honor Graduate Ranger School 1970

Leadership Honor Graduate of OCS class 3-73, April 1973
    OCS Class 3-73 Yearbook (see page 69)

Infantry Officers Candidate Hall of Fame 1997

Greater DC SOF Old and Bold Mountain Man award 2009

Bull Simons Award Honoree 2010

Ranger Hall of Fame 2011

Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment 2012

Colonel Aaron Bank Award 2012

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