Requesting Your Service Member's Military Records
Author: Jen Harlow
While military records are used to establish benefits and entitlements, they also tell the story of our heroes' military careers, capturing important events, dates and locations of service. These cherished treasures of our loved ones' service can be comforting in a time when grief has our emotions swirling and we don't feel like there's much we can control.
Memories help us feel like our loved ones' legacies live on, so displaying these military records, awards and decorations can be a healing experience. Many families choose to reach out and ask for copies of the records, awards and decorations for historical, genealogical and memorial safekeeping.
The National Personnel Records Center, located at the U.S. National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, holds the historical records of nearly 100 million veterans. Full military records may be requested by the Next of Kin. The process and cost for replacement medals differ among service branches.
Each service branch has its own definition of Next of Kin who may request records:
- In the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, Next of Kin refers to the un-remarried surviving spouse, child, parent or sibling.
- The Army defines Next of Kin as the surviving spouse, eldest child, parent, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild.
If you are not the Next of Kin, you can request certain records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). If you do not meet the definitions listed, you are considered to be a member of the general public and have access to records that can be released without violation of the Privacy Act. General public requests include the following: name, service number (not the Social Security number), rank, dates of service, awards and decorations and place of entrance and separation.
Replacement or duplicate medals and decorations may be ordered online. Generally, there is no cost; however, if a service or cost is associated, the requester will be notified.
The TAPS Casework department is available to answer questions on how to request records. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-959-8277.
From the pen of...
Jen Harlow is the TAPS Casework Director.