During your time of service in the military, you will receive many items that are part of your history. From unit patches, training qualification badges and patches, and ribbons and medals, these items are part of who you are today. Having them displayed somewhere in your home or in family member's home is certainly up to you, but for most people, younger family members tend to revere older veteran members of the family. Having something to show them and stories to tell is part of family lore. Enjoy it and help them understand that freedom isn't free.
Finding Your Veteran Records and Awards
Unfortunately, over the years many veterans have lost, misplaced, or discarded the medals and ribbons they earned while in the Military. Sometimes, the servicemember never received the medal or award for some reason, even though the citation was written and the award approved.
Many pawn shops, military surplus stores, and vendors sell military medals, ribbons, and awards, but there is also a way to obtain replacements (sometimes for free) from the Government from the National Archives website.
Personal Family Story of Veteran Awards Found
There is nothing quite like the feeling of making sure members of your family or close circle of friends are remembered for their service. One Christmas, our family was able to get all of my grandfather's ribbons, medals, unit patches, and badges and made a case of them that he had prominently displayed in his home for the rest of his life. He was a World War II veteran in the 3rd Army under General Patton travelling from Normandy to Berlin. We were able to do this with his social security number and a request form. Because he was Army, I was able to make the request as I was Next of Kin (NOK) eligible:
- For the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps & Coast Guard, the NOK is defined as: the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister
- For the Army, the NOK is defined as: the surviving spouse, eldest child, father or mother, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild
Contact the Branch of Service
Requests for the issuance or replacement of military service medals, decorations, and awards should be directed to the specific branch of the military in which the veteran served. However, for Air Force (including Army Air Corps) and Army personnel, the National Personnel Records Center will verify the awards to which a veteran is entitled and forward the request with the verification to the appropriate service department for issuance of the medals.
Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements, if requested by the Veteran. Only one replacement is allowed per medal or decoration.
There may be a small fee charged for replacements requested by family members of deceased servicemembers. The length of time to receive a response or your medals and awards varies depending upon the branch of service sending the medals, but the process can take several months (up to one year) due to manning and funding shortfalls at the National Military Personnel Records Center.
See link to the National Personnel Records Center for more information.
The Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, is recommended for requesting medals and awards. Provide as much information as possible, make sure you specifically request medal/decoration replacement in the remarks and send the form to the appropriate address below:
Army and Air Force (write here for medals)
National Personnel Records
Center 1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138 or
REQUEST MEDALS ONLINE!
Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard
National Personnel Record Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138 or REQUEST MEDALS ONLINE!
Coast Guard Personnel Service Center
4200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 900 (PSC-PSD-MA)
Arlington, VA 20598-7200
If you have any issues with receiving the medals, there are people to contact within each branch of service. Where to write in case of a problem or an appeal
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
Soldier Program and Services Division - Awards and Decorations Branch
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept 480
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5408
Active Duty VeteransReserve & Air Guard Veterans
Headquarters Air Force
550 C Street West, Suite 12
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4714
Air Reserve Personnel Center
18420 E Silver Creek Ave Bldg 390 MS 68
Buckley AFB, CO 80011
Department of the Navy
Chief of Naval Operations (DNS-35)
2000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-2000
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Military Awards Branch (MMMA)
2008 Elliot Road
Quantico, VA 22134
Commandant U.S. Coast Guard
Medals and Awards Branch
Washington, DC 20593-0001
Seriously, if your family member does not have his or her awards, get them for you and your kids, if the veteran does not want them. They make a tremendous keepsake of your loved one who served.