From the article:
To a civilian, the "ribbon rack" on a dress uniform is at once impressive and unintelligible, like poetry in a foreign language. To the discerning military eye, however, those decorations spell out a coded message with the wordless precision of signal flags.And the SAT word for today is cognoscenti, which means people who have superior knowledge and understanding of a particular field. Right; you knew that; got it.
"You can have someone walk into a room in uniform, and to a civilian he looks like Idi Amin, festooned with 'fruit salad' everywhere," said Bruce Gudmundsson, a retired Marine major who is a military historian. "But the cognoscenti look at that and say, 'Aha, this guy has never seen a shot fired in anger.' Another guy might be wearing only a couple of decorations, but you look at those and go, 'Wow.'"
Anyway, read the article and learn a bit; even those in uniform will pick up a tidbit or two, I'm sure.