DON'S FREEWARE CORNER - APR 2020

REQUESTING U.S. MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS FOR YOU OR A NEXT-OF-KIN


Don's Freeware Corner articles are printed in the UTAH VALLEY TECHNOLOGY AND GENEALOGY GROUP (UVTAGG) Newsletter TAGGology each month and are posted on his Class Notes Page https://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html where there may be corrections and updates.

REQUESTING U.S. MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS FOR YOU OR A NEXT-OF-KIN

2020 Donald R. Snow - Last updated 2020-04-08

U.S. MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS

Anyone serving in the United States military generates a service record consisting of their induction information, orders to report to various military installations, any military schools they attended, their medical and dental history, and their discharge certificate and information. Depending on how long they served this file may have a hundred or more pages and gives a complete history of their military service. These are stored at the National Archives, mostly in St. Louis, Missouri, and some there were destroyed by a fire many years ago. Many are still there and are complete and are obtainable. Of those that were destroyed, the National Archives has been attempting to regenerate some of the information from othr sources, but those may be very sketchy. Any living U.S. veteran can request a free copy of his own service record and for decieased veterans, their next-of-kin can request a free copy. Next-of-kin here is a living spouse, parent, sibling, or child. Since the service record contains so much data, it is a valuable source of family history information about the person. This article discusses the procedure to request such a copy.

THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND THEIR WEBSITE

The U.S. National Archives website is 
https://www.archives.gov/  and you'll see information there about their collections, how to search them, educational information, and much more.  One of the main options is Veterans Service Records and clicking there takes you to  https://www.archives.gov/veterans .   At the moment (Apr 2020), the National Archives is closed due to the Coronoavirus COVID-19 pandemic, but you can still order information for when they are open again.  Most of the military service records are stored in St. Louis, Missouri and an unfortunate fire many years ago destroyed some of these.  When the National Archives is again open to the public, you could go there in person and request your service record directly, but you can also do it very easily from home now.  You used to have to write a letter with the details and hope you had everything correct for the request, but now you do most of the request online first, and then mail a signature form to them. 

THE REQUEST FORM

You first go to the website and click on Veterans Service Record to be taken to  
https://www.archives.gov/veterans , which is where you start.  Next click on Request Military Service Reocrds and you see this screen.

https://uvtagg.org
Note that the left box asks whether you are looking for just the veteran's DD 214 (Department of Defense Form 214) discharge paper, the Official Military Personnel File (the Service Record), the Medical and Dental Record, etc. Questions about these items are answered at the bottom of the page. When you are ready to start the ordering process, click on the box labelled "Start Form Online (Then Print and Mail)". This takes you to the eVetRecs page and starts the 4-step process. These steps include asking things like whether you are the vet or a next-of-kin and, if next-of-kin, then which kin, and which records you are requesting.  They tell you to just start with rqeusting one record, e.g. the DD 214, and then near the end, to put the rest of the records you want in the Comments box.  So I wrote down the correct names of the documents I wanted to request so I could add those in the Comments box at the end.  The following screens ask for things like the full name of the vet, his Social Security Number (not his military ID), if you know it, when he was born and where, approximately when he entered the service and approximately when he was discharged. The form is adapted to whether you are the vet or a next-of-kin and it doesn't take long to complete. Thee is a bar-graph that shows you where you are in the 4-step process.  IThere is a place to put your name and mailing address for them to mail it to.  At the end, they show you a pdf awhich you can save and print so you can sign it to certify that you are who you claim in the process and it has a mailing address to mail it to St. Louis. You can also sign and FAX the form. On the form that you print is a QR code, one of those square things somewhat like a bar code, that they can scan to associates your mailed-in signed form with the electronic form you filled out online.  I think it's a good way to do things. They say it may take up to 3 months to process and it states that if they don't receive your mailed-in letter within 30 days, the process will be cancelled and you will have to start over.  They will send you a printed form, if you want that instead of doing most of it online, but the online ordering is easy and takes care of several problems.

COMMENTS

Several years ago I requested a copy of my own U.S. Navy service record and that has been very helpful. I had tried to get a copy of my father's U.S. Army service record for WW I.  They told me it was not at the St. Louis National Archives, but that the Veterans Administration had it.  Soince I never could find out where to write for it at the VA, I requested it again and asked them where to write to the VA for it.  We'll see what happens this time. I didn't know I could request a copy of my deceased rother's U.S. Navy service record since I didn't know what "next of kin" meant for the National Archives.  Now I have requested a copy of it.  I mailed in my parts of the signed form a month ago, so I probably won't hear anything for another couple of months.  In the right-hand box on the webpage above is an icon to check the status of your request.  Or you can tleephone them to check on it.  I haven't done this for my requests.

For any U.S. veteran I highly recommend that you request your service record, so you and your famly will have it with all the details. It tells exactly where and when you served at each post or military installation and how you got there. Your medical and dental record has all those details which you may need if you apply for veterans benefits. If you were in some military schools, all that information is there and all your advancements in rank and their dates, as well as all the medals you qualified for.  It's really worthwhile getting a copy and your copy is free.  If you don't get a copy now, your descendants may have to pay quite a bit for a copy of it later.
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