The Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon has been obsolete since 1965, yet it still serves one invaluable service: To remind people why they should always double-check a Wikipedia entry for inaccuracies. In the case of the Wikipedia article on this ribbon, the author(s) have managed to include two major errors in the space of three short paragraphs—and one of them has been there since the entry was initially created back in 2004.

Originally established by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal on December 17, 1945, the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon (MCRR) was awarded to members of the Reserve who completed ten years of honorable service. One caveat for the award was that any service after those ten years must have been satisfactory; another was that Reservists could not count any service that had been counted toward qualification of the Organized Marine Corps Reserve Medal. A bronze star was awarded for each additional ten years of honorable service.

The MCRR was rendered obsolete with the establishment of the Armed Forces Reserve Medal in 1950, but regulations “grandfathered” the issuance of the ribbon until December 17, 1965—precisely twenty years after it was established by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. Any Marine Corps Reservist who reached the ten-year milestone following that date was awarded the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Only four paragraphs are devoted to the MCRR in the Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual—and two of them specifically and explicitly expose the error of the Wikipedia article on this ribbon. In the Wiki entry, we read that the ribbon “is not awarded to members of the inactive reserves or Marine Corps reservists who were called to full-time active duty.” But the regulations make it crystal clear that active-duty service could be used in computing the ten-year-service requirement: “Service on active duty, except training duty and duty during a national emergency or war...may not be counted in computing the 10 years required to qualify for the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon.”

What makes the Wikipedia error even more egregious is that it’s not only wrong, it completely contradicts regulations: if you were in the Reserves during war time and did not serve on active duty, you weren’t even eligible for the ribbon. Read for yourself: “No person will be eligible for the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon who was a member of the Marine Corps Reserve in time of war and who did not serve on active duty during the course of the war.

The other error in the Wiki entry is the statement that the ten years of honorable service required for the MCRR may be accrued over a period of twelve years. This is simply untrue: nowhere in the regulations regarding the MCRR is any period of time mentioned in which the ten years of honorable service must be accrued, much less twelve years. Where you will find such a stipulation, however, is in the regulations regarding MCRR’s successor, the Armed Forces Service Medal.

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