We’ve often said that the core mission of the National Archives and Records Administration is to preserve and provide access to the federal government records in our control. And we do that—every day, across the country in our archives and records centers.
But who seeks that access, and for what reasons? The answers are as varied as our population, but the single largest group is veterans of the United States military services.
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis stores and services the Official Military Personnel Folders of millions of veterans who served from the late 1800s to the present. It serves as the primary source for military service information that veterans and their families need to obtain rights and benefits such as health care, home loan guaranties, education, employment, service-connected injury compensation, and burial in national cemeteries. The NPRC also supports federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Armed Services, and law enforcement agencies. It provides critical information to Veterans Service Officers from state, county, and local governments; congressional offices; national cemeteries and private funeral homes; homeless veteran shelters; organized veterans groups; and members of the media.
Each day the NPRC receives between 4,000 and 5,000 new requests, mostly from veterans or their next of kin. All are important.
Just ask 88-year-old Army Air Force veteran Robert Boxberger of Los Osos, California. He obtained a copy of his military records from the NPRC last summer. He sent a thank you, explaining that the records assembled by the NPRC represent the only proof that he has of his Korean War service and that having obtained these records assures him of receiving important benefits which provide “a comfort to one with service connected frailties.”
You might also ask Raquel Pabayo, of Ontario, Canada. Pabavo’s grandfather supported U.S. forces in the Philippines during World War II, serving in a guerrilla unit during the Japanese occupation. She contacted the NPRC last fall to request documents pertaining to her grandfather’s service and was able to use the documents to support the award of the Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino Veterans of World War II. She and her father traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the medal on her grandfather’s behalf.
The requests that we receive are as diverse as the records we hold. If you need military service documentation to support a benefit, obtain replacement medals, or even to pursue a genealogical project, the best way to submit a request is to visit our website at Archives.gov. You will see a prominent link for military service records, and from there you will learn all about our holdings. You will even find an application (eVetRecs) that will enable you to submit a request electronically. The most common document needed to support all types of benefits is the DD Form 214. If you request only a DD Form 214, the average response time is less than 10 days. If you request complete copies of records, response times are longer because we have to redact third-party personal data that is often prevalent in these records. If military records are urgently needed, perhaps to respond to a medical emergency or to ensure military honors are provided at a funeral service, the NPRC can help. Instructions for getting these urgent requests into the hands of its customer service team can found on our website.
As a veteran myself, I am especially proud of the work we do to support those who served.