Replacing Lost Military Medals and Decorations

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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…

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

You can request replacement military medals, decorations and awards via form SF 180, Request Pertaining To Military Records. This form can be downloaded from https://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, military records 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 (see below for more information on where to buy replacement military medals, rank insignia, and other military decorations).

Where Can I Get Copies of Other Military Records?

Your military personnel file is part of your legacy. I recommend maintaining a copy of your military records forever. This can help you prove your military service, help you support a VA disability claim, serve as a record of when and where you served, and provide your family with something to commemorate your military service.

Most military records are maintained at the National Archives. These records include your service contracts, separation paperwork, records of military awards, decorations, and medals, records of your duty stations, and possibly more.

The following links offer additional references for obtaining these military records:

Where Can I Purchase Replacement Medals, Ribbons, Rank Insignia, or other Military Items?

If you are a servicemember or retiree, you can purchase them at your base clothing sales store. Everyone else should look at military surplus stores, or any of the many online stores that specialize in military rank, insignia, medals, ribbons, uniform items, and similar military gear. A quick online search should bring up many results. It’s always a good idea to shop around for quality and price. A good place to start is USAMilitaryMedals.com, which guarantees the quality of the products they sell.

What about replacement dog tags? The military, the VA, and the National Archives do not reissue dog tags to veterans. The military does issue them to currently serving military members. This article explains how to order replacement dog tags.

USAMilitaryMedals.com Military Medals Store

Photo credit: The U.S. Army.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

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  1. Barbara Wardwell says

    Hi, I have been trying to request more medals my Dad had 5 daughters, 2 of us have medals the other 3 won’t them also. I did fill the form out months ago how do I find out if they even received my request thank you

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Barbara,

      I would try calling them. However, the National Archives most likely will not send medals to all family members. They will most likely send a list of the awards your father earned. You can buy military medals and decorations from authorized retailers, including USAMilitaryMedals.com, which is mentioned above. Those medals will be of the same quality as those issued by the U.S. government.

      Best wishes.

  2. Jerrie says

    Hoping you can help I am my Dad’s only child “daughter” and I need help. I have written to the Navy before but have never ever gotten anywhere. I am hoping you take the time the time to read this. My dad, 1st Class Petty Officer Forrest Gerald Bradley, was in the Navy for 20 years. He fought in Vietnam and was in the Navy and was proud to wear his Nave colors. Unfortunately, my dad died in a car accident 1mo before he was to retire his 18th year. At the funeral, he was honored with the 21 gun salute and I was given the flag and the cases from the gun and all my dad’s metals. It was a lot for a 16-year-old to deal with so my mom put everything in storage. Years later I asked for everything so I could proudly display my dad’s flag and metals and his Navy whites in my home. She told me she did not have the heart to tell me when I was younger but it was all stolen all. ALL OF IT the flag, his Navy whites, all his metals!! Who would do that?! I have nothing of my Dad’s but a glass horse bookend. I am begging for help to get my dad’s metals remade from the Navy and a flag to honor him. I have tried other avenues but to no avail. Can you please help me? If you are unable to can you please pass this on to someone that can help me.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Jerrie,

      I’m sorry for your loss. The best thing to do is to request your father’s military service records from the National Archives. His service records should include a list of the medals and decorations he earned. You can then purchase authentic military medals from authorized retailers as described in the article.

      I understand it may not seem “proper” to purchase replacement medals, but I assure you this is the right way to do things. Military members are only issued medals and ribbons one time while they are serving in the military. They are required to purchase replacements if they need another medal or ribbon (this is common as many servicemembers maintain at least two sets of ribbons for their uniforms).

      I hope this points you in the right direction and I wish you and your family the best.

  3. Johnny R says

    I have been trying for years but have not come across or been directed in the right direction for my certain situation. Howto obtain my american flag in a wooden frame with a small plaque of name on it, i dont know no if that is considered an award, let me explain upon returning from iraq every soldier was given a wood framed glass enclosed american flag as they were sent to the uits and distributed thru the supply sgt. my supply sgt. justt never gave me mine i did one box with my name on it which first made me awhere i had one coming, and as time went on i never recieved mine so i asked the supply sgt. and he looke around whether he knew it was there or not i still wonder, but he informed me he coild not licate it and shortly after he PCS, and i never received it. I dont want it for me i want it for my 80 yr old father who from the miment i knew i would be receiving could not wait to present it to him, my friend, my mentor, my idol, my father. I know this is something petty and its not a medal of honor or something like that, but in reality it is to me, any advise on where to turn next will be greatly appreciated.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Johnny,

      I’m not aware of any military-wide programs that issued American flags in a case. This sounds like it was a local program that was run through your base. I don’t know if there are any other programs that do this. However, you could purchase your own flag and display case and present it to your father as a remembrance of your service and as a token of appreciation to his guidance and mentorship throughout your life.

      I wish you the best.

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