Heraldry of the California State Military Forces
The California Commendation Medal
By Captain George J. Albert, Field Historian, California Center for Military History
Type 1 Varierty 1 California Commendation Medal (MEMEN type) (Author’s Collection).
Originally known as the Commendation Ribbon with Pendent, the California Commendation Medal (CACOM) is the fifth highest award in the State’s pyramid of honor.
Criteria for Award: California Military and Veterans Code, Section 643.1.  A California Commendation Medal may be presented to each person who, while an officer, warrant officer, or enlisted member of the National Guard, State Military Reserve, or Naval Militia distinguishes himself or herself while serving in any capacity with the National Guard, State Military Reserve, or Naval Militia by meritorious achievement or meritorious service.  The meritorious achievement or meritorious service is less exceptional than that required for the Medal of Merit but shall be accomplished with distinction. The California Commendation Medal may also be awarded to civilians and members of other military services who distinguish themselves as indicated in this section.
History: The California Commendation Medal was authorized by the state legislature on 13 October 1950, as recorded in Chapter 27, Section 15. This passage has been codified into Sec 643.1, Military and Veterans code. The medal was designed by LTC Howard W. Jesperson of the California National Guard. Through 1968 more than 2,000 of these medals had been awarded. In 1976 the California Commendation Medal was superseded by the Medal of Merit, 3rd Order, but was reinstated the following year when the Orders became obsolete. The Type 1 variety 1 medal was a three ring suspension type medal similar to the California Service Medal Type 2 Variety 3 medals. This medal had an error in that the space between the words “Me” and “Men” was missing thus forming “Memen”.  All varieties have clutch type fasteners. The Type 1 variety 2 medals are nicely struck medals with fine details.
Type 1 variety 1 California Commendation Medal (MEMEN Type) (Author’s Collection).
Type 1 variety 2 California Commendation Medal (Author’s Collection).
Type 1 variety 3 California Commendation Medal (Author’s Collection).
The first 4 varieties were produced by Wolfe Brown of Los Angeles. The variety 5 was produced by Vanguard, and the variety 6 is produced by Graco of Texas. The original color of the ribbon was described as “Pearl”. Later the color was changed to a cream. Oakleaf clusters are worn on the ribbon to denote further awards. A bronze oakleaf denotes a second award, a Silver oakleaf is worn in lieu of five bronze oakleaves.
Type 1 variety 4 California Commendation Medal (Author’s Collection).
Type 1 variety 5 Vanguard Medal in Presentation Box (Author’s Collection).
Type 1 variety 6 Graco Medal as Presented to the Author in Oct 2004 (Authors Collection).
I am indebted to Captain Gregory Ogletree for his kind permission to use much of the data contained in this article, which came from his book:  Awards and Decorations of U. S. State Military Forces, 1988. Patriot Press. I am also indebted to S. G. (Yash) Yasinitsky, OMSA#1 for his support, information, and friendship over the years.
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Updated 23 June 2017