Over at Tam's a post about the Medal of Honor led to further comments about medals. I can't speak for the other services, but in the Army there are not awards for "shining your boots every day".
Medals fall into two categories of awards, bravery or service.
If you serve three enlisted years honorably, keep your nose clean, you get a Good Conduct Medal to go with your three year service stripe. The stripe is automatic, the medal is not. If you serve during a declared war, you get the National Defense Service Medal, whether you went anywhere or not.
But all medals, ribbons, badges and tabs do is put some of your history on your uniform.
There have been a number of MOH recipients who I would not want to hang around. But they were admirably valiant at a point in their military career. There are MOH recipients who really are/were God's Gift to the Army, and are were tremendous assets their entire career.
One Lieutenant I know was awarded a Bronze Star with V Device for having to deal with the aftermath of a VBIED roll into his joint patrol. He spent some time at Walther Reed, and the men of his platoon earned their CIB's and CAB's. Would he give the medal back in a heartbeat to bring two dead soldiers back to life? You bet.
Medals for Valor are always hard, it always means someone has bad memories. Awards for service are to honor someone for their sacrifices. Does that make an award for service lesser than an award for valor? Sure, but everybody who serves does not get the same opportunities for valor.
Us grunts need the intel weenies to do their magic hacking into cellphones and stuff, does that make the intel weenie valuable? Hell yeah. Should the intel weenie be decorated for simply doing their job well? Hell yeah.
One of the most decorated men I've ever known was a cook. A cook who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He was a brave man, and a good man, and an asset to the Army his entire career. Most of his medals were "I was there" medals, but at the end of the day, if you weren't there, you didn't get that medal.