Getting awards and medals replaced
The military recognizes that military medals are often a cherished part of family history and makes replacement medals, decorations, and awards available to veterans or their next of kin if the veteran is no longer living or able to make the request on his or her own behalf. Requests for replacement medals, decorations and awards should be made to the veteran's respective branch of service, with the exception of Army and Air Force (including Army Air Corps) veterans; requests should be sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis where the records will be reviewed and verified.
The NPRC will then forward the requests to the respective service where the medal, decoration or award will be issued after verification of entitlement from the veterans records. The military won't issue replacement medals or awards to just anyone. You typically need to be the veteran or next of kin to receive a replacement medal or decoration. When it comes to military records requests, there are three categories of people who can make a request. They include the veteran, Next-of-Kin (NOK), and the general public. It is important to note that Next-of-Kin doesn' include all familial relationships. According to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), NOK includes:
For the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and 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.
If you do not meet the definition of NOK, you are considered a member of the general public.
Replacement medals, decorations and awards should be requested on SF 180, Request Pertaining To Military Records. This form can be downloaded from www.va.gov/vaforms. Each request should be filled out neatly, and should include the veteran's branch of service, Social Security number, dates of service, and it should be signed by the veteran or the next of kin if the veteran is incapacitated or deceased. Where to forward it to is indicated by an address code on the back of the SF 180.
Supporting documentation such as discharge paperwork or the veteran's DD Form 214 can help speed the process. Additional information on where to send the form and who is eligible to make the request can be found at the NPRC website. In general, requests made by the veteran are fulfilled at no cost. This includes requests made by family members who have the signed authorization of the veteran. There may be an associated fee for requests made by next of kin, especially if the request involves archival records (records are considered archival records 62 years after the veteran's date of separation from military service). Members of the general public may be able to request a copy of the servicemember's military records, but are not able to receive a medal issued by the service. However, they would be able to purchase these from commercial sources.
Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, have a great week.