Replacing Lost Military Medals and Decorations

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.

Who Can Request Replacement Medals or Decorations?

how to replace military medals and decorationsThe 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.

Are you Next-of-Kin, or part of the general public? 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’t include all familial relationships. According to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), NOK includes:

  • 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.
  • If you do not meet the definition of NOK, you are considered a member of the general public.

How to submit a request. Replacement medals, decorations and awards should be requested on SF 180, Request Pertaining To Military Records. This form can be downloaded from 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. Supporting documentation such as discharge paperwork or the veteran’s DD Form 214 or other military records 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.

How much does it cost? 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.

Photo credit: The U.S. Army.

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Date published: November 22, 2011. Last updated: November 29, 2011.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


    • says

      Rex, So far as I know, the government does not reissue dog tags, but you can often order a set of dog tags from many companies which sell replacement medals and decorations. I would also caution you not to include your social security number on a set of dog tags if you buy them from a replacement vendor, because your SSN is private information and could be used for identity theft (this isn’t a warning against any specific company, but rather a statement for safeguarding your personal information).

      • Theresa Murphy says

        My grandfather was a pfc in the army and was active in the korean war, he passed away suddenly 3 days ago no1 knows if he held onto them throughout the years it means alooot to me to have another pair made for my personal gratification since im very proud of him and his services i dont want a fake pair that basically is useless i want a legit pair from the v.a his ssi n bloodtype wpuldnt be necessary just his branch rank and year….this is something that i have my heart set on obtaining

        • says

          Theresa, I’m sorry for your loss. It sounds like you are referring to Dog Tags. The military only issues dog tags to current service members – no government agencies provide them for veterans. You would need to buy them through a 3rd party vendor, and you can add whatever information to the dog tags that you wish (so leaving off the serial number and blood type is probably a good idea). Most people would add information such as Name, Branch of Service, Years Served, and possibly the rank or other information they wish to display. I hope this is helpful.

        • Denise Dwyer says

          Dear Theresa,

          My Father ( Navy) died just a few days after yours did. April 15 th TAX DAY ugh a day I already hated!!!) suddenly without warning. I was very proud of my Father as well…it is such a hard loss. I am so sorry for your loss, I can truly understandf some of what you might be feeling. I am also getting his medals from the Navy. Army surplus stores can make the dog tags for you. That is what I am having done… prayers sent your way…

    • says

      Dreka, I don’t know exactly which photos you are referring to. If they are part of his military record, then he should contact the National Archives to replace his military records.

      If these were personal photos, then this would not be the military’s responsibility and they would not have copies of his photos.

      Best of luck.

    • says

      Hi Joseph, I have never requested the medals, so I don’t have a firm answer. My guess is that each situation is unique and that it depends on the request, the backlog, and other factors.

  1. Amy says

    My father is a veteran, and I want to obtain replacements of the medals and rewards my father received while in the military.

    • Tom Lemley says

      I’ve been trying to obtain a complete set of replacement medals my dad earned while in Vietnam. He passed away on May 4 2012 from complications due to Agent Orange. I picked up a form from a local American Legion and filled out the paper work and requested his OMPF (all Military Personnel Records), to update his DD-214 to a DD-215 (didn’t know that there was another form for me to fill out) and a complete set of replacement medals, ribbons and devices.

      I sent the form in around June 2012 and received his Personnel files around October 2012 (pretty fast), but the medals came about a year later. I opened the envelope only to find the NDM and VSM that was it. I had called the National Archives and the Commandant of the Marine Corps office (which got me no where). I spoke with the Commandant’s secretary and explained my issues and she told me to send all the information I had and she would try to help me out.

      So I made copies of his DD-214, copies of combat history (awards/decorations) in which he was wounded on 8-9-67 and received his PH on 9-25-1990 which also showed what operations he was involved in. Along with this information I wrote a letter to the Commandant himself (no vulgar language, just hoping that he would understand where I was coming from), but I received nothing not even a reply to the letter. So I then called Congressman Tim Murphy’s office in Greensburg, Pa and gave her all the information I had sent to the Marine Corps Commandant and about 6 months later I received a package in the mail.

      As I opened the package (bubble envelope) I noticed only a few items were inside.

      Here is what my dad had earned while in Vietnam:
      Purple Heart
      PUC (Presidential Unit Citation) 2/5/1 Battle of Hue – Tet Offensive

      Now what I received so far was:
      2 loose bronze star devices for the PUC
      3 loose bronze star devices for the VSM

      Now, I should also note that we buried our father with his medals on May 10 2012. I still am trying to get a replacement PH & PUC, they will not send me the Vietnam Campaign Medal (since the South Vietnamese Govt. gave that award)
      and as for the bronze star devices for the medals and ribbons they shorted me 3 bronze star devices for the VSM (3 for the ribbon and 3 for the medal = 6).

      Some people may read this and think this is petty B.S. and maybe you’re right, but if they can find a way to bring my dad back I’d take that over any of his medals any day. B.T.W. EVERYONE told our Service MEN & WOMEN that AGENT ORANGE was SAFE that IT WOULD NOT HARM THEM!!!! My dad was 65 when he passed from a 4 inch wide x 1/2 dollar size mass pushing on his left lung, his esophagus (was afraid to eat because he thought he was going to choke to death) and the Aorta Artery (which was being cut off like crimping a garden hose/cutting off the water) backing up the blood in his feet, hands/arms (3 x’s there normal size) and face. So, yeah I want ALL his medals/ribbons and devices he earned!

      Sorry for that rant, but it ticks me off to no end. I hope that you don’t encounter the same lame B.S. that I have encountered while trying to do the same thing.

      I also should note that after I got the OMPF it revealed that he earned more than what I knew of. It’s really hard to decipher all the documents and understand the abbreviations.

      Semper Fi

      • says

        Tom, Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about your father’s passing, especially the circumstances under which it happened.

        I don’t know if there is a way to speed up the process with medals and decorations through the government. I don’t have any personal experience here, so I’m afraid I don’t have specific advice. Perhaps you may find some luck contacting a local veteran’s service organization to see if they have any members who have experience with this. There are many Vietnam Veterans who volunteer many hours to helping their fellow Vietnam Vets obtain their due course. I’m positive many of them would extend the same courtesies to you.

        I hope you are able to obtain his full records and awards so you have that memento of his service. I wish you the best, and I though I never met your father, I thank him for his service and sacrifices.

        • Tom Lemley says

          First, Thank You for your kind words. As far as I know I have all of his personnel files, but it seems as if they didn’t complete the paperwork back then. As far as for a Veteran Organization(s) goes, I had asked The American Legion in Mt. Pleasant (15666) and the Westmoreland County Vietnam Veterans (they hold the TET Party every year for those that were involved with the TET Offensive – Battle of Hue) if either one could help me out with a project I’m trying to do. I planned on raising money selling t-shirts (short, long and hoodies) and had asked if they would be willing to open a joint bank account for the money to be deposited into (I thought this way people wouldn’t think I was pocketing the money like some people do). Someone from the organization along with myself would go and withdraw the money or present a check to the business that would be handling the memorial I wanted to have made. Plus a plus on that note they are both non-profit organizations and wouldn’t have to pay a tax on the monies received. The memorial I wanted to have made was The Order of the Silver Rose Memorial for the Vietnam Veterans and their family members who have lost someone to Agent Orange. I mentioned to friends who went into the military after high school and my friends family members and their friends want to purchase these shirts/hoodies. The memorial will cost $1500.00 so any money left over will be put towards another memorial for another local town ect.,ect.,ect. So this wouldn’t just be for the town I grew up in, it could possibly spread to 2-3 other counties.

          I mean I feel that I shouldn’t have to pay a tax on this money since I am not using it for my own personal use and plus the money I use to pay for the memorial will be taxed. I feel that the Veteran Organization(s) and or Govt. (local-state and federal) should have done this, but hasn’t so I felt that since they didn’t and probably will never do this I will try to do it by myself.

          So, I doubt that I will ask any local Veteran’s Organization for any other kind of help. Anyways 8 different towns would be $12,000.00 + .06 tax = somewhere near $12,720.00. That may seem like a lot of money, but when the schools don’t teach about what had happened over in Vietnam to our Parent’s/Uncle’s/Grandparent’s. The memorial is a way to raise awareness of Agent Orange, how it is passed down from generation to generation. Perfect example: look at the people that live in Vietnam and how much money our government sends over there for the clean up and families affected to this day.

          I’m sorry I’ve gotten off track since this is about replacement medals. Like I said I doubt that they would even help me out. So I must find a different way to get them.

          Thanks again,
          Tom Lemley

          • says

            Tom, Supporting a memorial is a beautiful way to remember those who gave more than was asked of them. I think it is worth pursuing even if taxes must be paid. If you want to get around that, it may be possible to start your own non-profit organization. It may cost a little money up front, but at least you would know and control where that money goes.

            In regard to the medals – most medals can be purchased through online retailers. There are many sites to choose from (just type “but military ribbons and medals” into your favorite search engine). Many of those companies are owned by veterans and they will often help you determine which medals and decorations you need. They may even help you design a shadow box, which is a box that displays all a veteran’s medals, ribbons, rank, and other memorabilia from their career. They are very popular in the military community, and one would make a beautiful remembrance for your father’s service.

  2. Tony says

    I lost my dogtags in a car crash how can i get some replacements from the VA why is it so difficult in order to get them replaced… i would gladly pay extra just to get them made by the us gov

  3. Joe P Sepulveda says

    I am 83 years old and cannot find my dogtags. My wish is for a replacement and I do not know the procedure. Please let me know how I can get them replaced. Thank you for your assistance. Joe P Sepulveda

    • says

      Joe, To be honest, I don’t believe the military replaces dog tags for veterans. There are several commercial companies that sell replacement dog tags. Just be sure not to send them your social security number, because that is not needed for dog tags and can be a security risk.

  4. reggie rivera says

    Would like to know the info. That was on my wife’s dads army tags
    So I can use that info. To out on a pair of dog tags and give it to her
    For a Christmas present. It would be very touching, cause her dad meant
    Everything to her. Please email me the info. Or a phone number to reach
    You. Thank you for your help.

    • says

      Reggie, You will need to contact the National Archives to get this information. It will be part of the national military records. The contact information for the National Archives is in this article. Best of luck!

    • Buck says

      Do you know what branch of the service he was in? Also what time period was he in service? If you can tell me this information, I can generally tell you what would have been on his tags, as far as his military ID number it would depend on the branch of service he was in, and the time period.

  5. Joseph Caputo says

    I’m confused as to why it is not possible to have lost dog tags replaced.
    I recently found that my dog tags from army in 1964-1966 are lost.
    I would like to have them replaced. Are the commercially produced dog tags acceptable/recognized by the Army/Gonernment?

    Input would be much appreciated.

    • says

      Joseph, The military does not issue dog tags to veterans after they have left military service. The Army and Government also do not use dog tags as an acceptable form of ID for veterans – they require a photo ID, passport, Social Security Card, birth certificate, or other official documents. If you need replacement dog tags, they would be for your own personal use. Commercially available dog tags would be fine for this purpose. Please be sure not to include your Social Security Number, as it is not needed for replacement dog tags. I hope this helps.

  6. Erika Martinez says

    My dad recently died and the only copy of his official Army photograph, the one in front of the flag and in his uniform, is in my grandfather’s house. We have no access to it. How do I obtain a copy of this photography?

  7. Cheryl says

    I found some dog tags and am trying to find the owner, Phill George. I’ve searched Facebook and messaged a few but it will go to their other folder and may never been seen.

    • Buck says

      Contact your local VA, ask for a case manager, and let them know that you have a service members tags. If you give them the information off of the tags, they should be able to locate the service member. You can provide them your contact information, and if they can contact the service member, they can pass that information along.

  8. charles says

    so if i need to get all my medals replaced due to them being lost or stolen, i just write the NPRC? also what do i need to do in order to get a complete copy of my medical records from the military

  9. joseph says

    i am getting a tattoo for my grand parents and its a cross with my grandpas dog tags rapped around it. I’m not sure if he still has them and i don’t want to ask him because i want to surprise them with my tattoo. so i was wondering if there is a way of finding out my grandpas dog tags so i can get the tattoo.

    • says

      Joseph, Thank you for contacting me. Dog tags often have personal information on them which may include the servicemember’s name, serial number, blood type, allergies, and faith. They are used to quickly give medical attention on the battle field, or to identify bodies when there is no other nethod.

      If you want to honor your grandfather with a dog tag, I don’t think you need to see his exact copy, because it has information on it that wouldn’t be necessary for a tattoo. I would Google dog tag images to get an idea of what information is normally included, then only use the relevant information. One idea is using his name, branch of service, and maybe the years he served. Hope this helps.

  10. Amanda says

    How do you find out what medals and things he received ? I was young when he past anyone who had a clue has passed as well other than his sister and she doesn’t know

  11. ken detrick says

    My dads WWII records were lost in the fire, but a friend of mine says I can still obtain his medals and ribbons. He was a top turret gunner in a B-17 stationed in England.

  12. Bill Biel says

    Three of my great uncles fought in WWI, Frederick and Theodore Biel and Frank Kaib. I know my Uncle Frank suffered from shell shock and did spend some time institutionalized, but I remember him as a really great guy. Uncle Frank brought his wife, my Aunt Ida back with him at some point. I have some really great photo’s of them in uniform. Is there any way that I could get their military records. I’d love to see exactly where they served and what medals they earned during their service. Is this a possibility?

  13. juanita says

    My grandfather died 10years ago he was in the army guard my mother lost all his medals . my mother only has 1 month left to live and I want to fulfill her last wish and get them for her. I just want to know where can I get a list of medals he had. Please I don’t have much time. Any help is appreciated.

    • says

      Juanita, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your Grandfather and your mother’s illness. I hope you will find peace during this time. The best way to get the medals is to contact the National Archives in St. Louis, where you can get a copy of his military records. It can take a long time to get replacement medals issued, but if you have a list of medals and awards, you can buy them from websites and stores that sell military medals and awards. I hope this is helpful.

  14. Dave Keough says

    I requested replacement medals from nam and others. I sent my DD214 to speed up the process. That was 3 months ago. Still haven’t heard a word from them. Any way to contact them or is this normal. Thanks for doing what you do here.

    • says

      Dave, Thank you for contacting me. From what I understand, obtaining replacement medals can be a time-intensive process. Acquiring copies of written records usually takes much less time, because all they need to do is copy the forms, then drop them in the mail. But medals require more time. I don’t have a time frame of when to expect them. The best I can say is to contact them and ask if there is a rough timeline.

  15. Ann Marie says

    Hi Ryan,

    I am trying to obtain my mothers navy pictures, she was enlisted February 22, 1974- September 16, 1976. She passed away October 31, 2003 to breast cancer that spread. I’ve wanted to replace the big group picture that she was in that was ruined. I have all of her military paperwork. If you can please direct me in the right direction.

    Thank you,

    Ann Marie

    • says

      Hello Ann Marie, Thank you for contacting me, and I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can offer anything more specific than the information in this article. The National Archives houses all official veteran files, including service history, personnel files, awards and decorations, and similar papers. I do not know if they maintain military photos of specific units. You could try contacting the National Archives if you have the information of the unit. You may also try to contact the unit to see if they have an archival copy that can be reproduced. Outside of that, I don’t have any further information. I’m sorry I can’t offer further assistance. I wish you the best in finding a copy of the photo.

  16. George OBrien says

    How does a person go about replacing (government ) DOG TAGS , anything I have checked into are substandard and I am almost positive not up to government specs .
    Any help in pointing me in the right direction would be nice , either getting government issue or someone that is up to government standards .
    Mine have disappeared over the years I entered the Army in 1971.

    Thank You
    George OBrien

    • says

      George, Thank you for contacting me. The government doesn’t issue dog tags to veterans or retirees – only current servicemembers. The only way I know to get dog tags is to buy them from a third party. Many websites offer them for sale, but I don’t have any specific recommendations.

  17. Laurie Mills says

    My husband has his original dd214 when he got out of the Army in 1970. It has his medal awards listed. When we requested a copy of his dd214 it did not list these medals, including the Purple Heart he earned. He lost his medals and we want them replaced. How do we get the dd214 updated to include all his awards?

    • says

      Laurie, I recommend making copies of his original DD214 and keeping copies in a safe place. Then you should contact the National Archives to request a military records update. Having a copy of the original DD 214 will be important as proof of the original awards.

  18. Denise Radabaugh says

    How would I find out my dad’s army information? He died 3 yes ago and I want to have some dog tags made to put on his urn and a second set made for me to wear in remembrance. Also I have no idea if he received any medals or awards as I came along a long time after his service to this country but I would love to honor him in this way. I have been trying since he died to find out and no luck. Any help would be appreciated thanks.

  19. Eapindola says

    My Father served in World War ll and I so proud to call him my Father. He Passed away Nov. 2013. When he was buried I reiceved his Military Flag for his Service and was my honor to get the Burial Flag which sits atop my table along with his medals and Purple Heart which I have on display to honor him and his service and for his Grandchildren my Girls who he helped me raise because he loved them and they equally loved and cared for him in his final days. The question I’m asking is that a neighbor of mine told me a story my Dad told her about when him and his comrades where under fire by the enemy and when it was all over my Father realized he had to get them to safty and carried I’m not sure how many maybe four or so to safety to be air life’s out of there. Is there some kind of special medal given she my neighbor told me I should inquire about this. I realize my Father was old school and didn’t lie there are not to many men like that. And not hearing the story from him I know my Father wouldn’t make it up. He use to tell me story about the war all the time and seems when a man knows he’s close to death shares story’s with loved ones. When she shared this with me it just made me even more proud of him and the love he had for his fellow man. If you could help me in any way possible that would be so very helpful and greatly appreciated. Thank You for this S. Espindola

    • says

      S. Espindola, Thank you for contacting me. It is possible for medals to be awarded years after the action, however, there needs to be an official report written that states what happened, the actions of the individual, and other details. If there are no witnesses who are able to testify about what happened that day, then it isn’t possible for the individual to be put in for a medal. If there is someone who can testify about the events, then it would be possible for that person to submit an official report, which could then be put in for a medal.

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