Why do they make this so difficult? Here is our guide to how to obtain military service records:
If you have a veteran, family member, or friend, you might want to see their military records. You can learn more about why they wanted to serve our country and how they contributed. Additionally, the records can help prove eligibility for certain benefits if your loved one has passed away. Here’s some information on how to find military service records.
Where The Records Are Stored
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) of NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) is the official repository for military personnel records from the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy.
NARA has records for every branch of the military. If you’re unsure which service to search for, visit their website and click “Where are my Military Records?” The site will help you select the correct service by asking questions about your time in service.
Here’s how to get your military records from the National Archives and Records Administration:
- Visit NARA on the web and click on “Request Military Personnel Records.”
- Follow the instructions provided by NARA to complete a request for your military service records. The process can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on how quickly you submit your application and whether or not additional documents are needed for verification (such as proof of citizenship).
What’s In The Files
The records include:
- Name and rank of the soldier
- Date of enlistment and discharge
- Military service number (also called an “enlistment number” or “service number”)
- Number of days served
- Dates of active duty service, including when they began and ended, locations where they served, and any assignments within their branch
- Type of discharge (e.g., honorable versus dishonorable)
- Rank at time of discharge (if applicable)
How To Access Them
When figuring out how to obtain military service records, you have to follow the instructions precisely. The process can end up quite complicated. The easiest way to access your military records is through an online request. You can also make a request in person, by mail, or by phone.
Online: Visit the National Archives and Records Administration website, select “Visit NARA Facilities,” and choose your nearest Regional Archives from the list provided.
In-Person: Go to one of the designated facilities and fill out required forms at a self-service kiosk or with staff assistance. You will need two forms of identification for verification purposes, so bring with you a driver’s license or passport card (if applicable) as well as a government-issued ID card like a military retiree card or VA medical card if you have one available (note: these will not be accepted).
The Limits Of Privacy
When you request your records, you are entitled to some privacy. The Defense Department does not release the complete medical or psychiatric records of individuals who served before September 7, 1980; however, if you have a need-to-know reason for viewing these records, they may be released to you.
If your request is denied due to privacy concerns and/or other reasons (such as lack of proof), don’t give up just yet! If there is no other way around it, then try contacting an accredited genealogist or professional researcher who can help guide you through this process.
You Can Get Free Help Sometimes
If you can’t find the records yourself, NARA has provided online help and guidance. You can also hire a private researcher to help you. You can also hire an attorney if needed. And it’s always possible that a genealogist might be able to help locate the information you need through their research skills and experience in this area of study.
An Attorney Can Help
If you are seeking a copy of your military service records, and for more information on how to obtain military service records, a lawyer might be the solution. However, if you do not feel comfortable with this process and/or need help in obtaining records that were not previously recorded or have been lost over time, then we recommend contacting an attorney for assistance.
An attorney can assist you with the necessary paperwork and ensure that all of your rights are being upheld by any government entity involved in the process. They can also help determine if there were any medical issues or injuries sustained while serving in the armed forces that may be affecting your current life, as well as advise on what other steps may need to be taken after receiving these documents. We hope this post has been helpful in answering some of your questions about military records. Please let us know if you have any other questions or need further assistance.