Del Rio-Laughlin Post #298, Del
* Medals awarded to you are a testament to your service to your country. Here's how you can go about getting them or replacing the ones you may have lost.
"Dad never talked about his experiences during the war, but at his funeral, some of his old friends told me he'd been awarded a bunch of medals. I don't know what happened to them. Is there any way I can get them replaced?"
Hundreds of similar letters and calls come in to The American Legion each year. Certainly, many pawn shops, military surplus stores and vendors sell medals and ribbons, but it's not the same as having those issued by the government. Unfortunately, over the years many veterans have lost, misplaced, or in some cases, discarded the medals and ribbons they earned. Often, the veteran never received the medal due to the circumstances surrounding the award, though the citation was written and granted.
The nation's guardian and repository of medals and citations is the National Personnel Records (NPR) center in St. Louis, Missouri. During the past decade, due primarily to interest spurred by the 50th anniversary of World War II, the small staff which handles medal inquiries has been hard-pressed to fulfill requests from veterans and their families for replacement medals, so most applying for replacement medals should expect a lengthy wait for a response.
NPR also has some rules. First, they will only replace medals once, and only one set. Second, NPR does not issue unit citations or awards, badges or foreign medals. Nor, with the exception of some decorations, does the government engrave the medals. Even then, decoration engraving must be requested at the time the claim is submitted.
Finally, medal requests must be made in order of precedence, by the veteran or the veteran's next-of-kin, who consist of widowed spouse, eldest son or daughter, father, mother, eldest brother, sister or grandchild. Next-of-kin may be charged a fee for replacement medals.
All citation records are maintained in the Entitlement of Award information. The Entitlement of Award records are maintained in the veterans personnel records and the location of those records depends on when the veteran served, where the veteran served and the branch of service. The U.S. government maintains military service records dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War in a system called the Compiled Service Records.
Service records for all branches of the military, except the Merchant Marine, are maintained in two primary locations. First is the NPR, the other is the National Archives. However, access to service records are restricted. The veteran may access nearly all of his or her personnel and medical records. Immediate next-of-kin can access most, but a Release of Authorization form is required. This form is sent to individuals requesting medals and records as part of the packet of forms necessary to file the request, and is part of Form 180, the official document that needs to be filled out for medals or records.
The address for obtaining forms to request medals and records from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines:
Navy Liaison, Room 5409, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
For veterans of the Army, write:
U.S. Army, APERCEN, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5200.
Air Force veterans should write:
U.S. Air Force, Military Personnel Records, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
Merchant Marine information is available at:
Office of Maritime Labor and Training, Maritime Administration, Room 7302, MAR 250, Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C. 20590.
For records (no medals are available) of a specific veteran who served from the Revolutionary War to World War I, write:
The National Archives and Records Administration, Military Archives Division, Washington, D.C. 20408.
Finally, one quick word of advice: NPR has been flooded with medal requests and it is not unusual for a request to take more than a year to be filled. If you need the medals for a specific function, veterans and their families are advised to purchase duplicates from any of the many suppliers of such military memorabilia, then replace the duplicates with the real article when they arrive.