CAR or Combat Action Ribbon is highly valued by US Marines as it signifies the wearer has been in combat. It is a personal award and to be eligible you must be fired upon and/or returned fire. I was awarded the CAR Combat Action ribbon while stationed aboard the USS Providence CLG6. We primarily served off the coast of Vietnam on the 'gunline' firing shells continuously inland for weeks at a time.
Many times we were at 'General Quarters' for 36 hours so you were at your battle station for that long. When the long GQs occurred we were off the gunline doing 'sneaky stuff'. Many times we went inside Haiphong harbor in the dark of night with our ship blacked out, dropped boats in the water, went and sabotaged equipment, planted charges on boats, etc. We tied a long chain from a pier stanchion to the rudder shaft of their torpedo boat. They would take off from the pier, get up some speed, run out of chain and tear the rudder off the boat. A vessel that can't steer is useless. My good buddy was a gunners mate and he always knew what was going on.
While going to college I worked in the shipyard and many of my coworkers were ex-military. I met more Marines in the shipyard than I ever did in the Navy. Many Marines I had lunch with were surprised I had a CAR and I had to show my DD214 to prove it. I never gave it much thought but my lunch buddies' respect changed my opinion to prize the award. Below is a picture of the Combat Action Ribbon awarded to USNavy and USMarines.
Four years ago I read an article about the man selected for Marine of the Year was being ridiculed because he did not have a CAR combat action ribbon. More than 50% of the Marines polled felt that Marine of the Year required a CAR. In 2015 only 11.3% of active duty Marines had a CAR and been in combat. This is one CAR combat Marine in a group of nine active duty Marines. The percentage grows less each year with no declared war. Marines want the CAR for the respect they receive from their peers. It has been 44 years since I was in the Navy but some of the memories seem like yesterday.
Please read the following linked article from the MarineTimes because this conflict comes up every year when the Marine of the Year does not have a CAR.
Image & Text Source