OK, let's see if I can explain more clearly.To make things simple I'll just deal with the regulations during WW2.
Every soldier, sailor, marine who served one day of service would get a WWII Victory Medal, no matter where they were stationed.
If your serviceman stayed ONLY within the US (never made it overseas), he would be entitled to an American Campaign medal after one year of service.
If he served for one year he'd be entitled to a Good Conduct Medal.The GCM is an enlistedman's award only.Officers did not qualify.
These would be the three awards for basically doing nothing... just serving in federal service in the US during the war.
There were a couple of other awards he COULD have received, if he DID something.
The Soldier's Medal (or the Navy and Marine Corps Medal) is awarded for heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy involving an element of risk to life.It's basically a lifesaving medal.Only 829 Soldier's Medals were awarded in the American Theatre during WW2.
The Legion of Merit is an award for "service and achievement." It is a relatively scarce award, especially to enlisted personnel, but could be awarded for achievement not involving combat with the enemy.Basically doing an exceptional job, often over an extended period of time. Over 7000 were awarded in the American Theatre.
A higher, and even more scarce award, which could be awarded for non-combat related service or achievement is the Distinguished Service Medal.This is our nation's highest service (non-combat) award. Only 540 awarded in the Amer Theatre
You mentioned the Bronze Star in your message. That is an award for "heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving aerial flight in connection with military operations against an armed enemy." In essence a combat award, whether awarded for heroic action (a specific act), or meritorious service, (achievement over a period of time). There were only 1001 Bronze Stars awarded in the American Theatre, as opposed to 274,000 awarded in the ETO.