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 http://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. 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.

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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.

Comments

    • 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.

  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?

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