Medal Ribbons

Living History

My apologies if this is really stupid.

I had imagined that the ribbons worn on the left breast of any service personnel were to signify the award of a medal. If this is correct why do various big cheeses have rows and rows of them?

I was just watching the footage of the military coup in Egypt and wondered what on earth he could have done to amass such a collection?

So is my initial assumption incorrect and if so what are their significance?

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