Military medals and decorations are a proud reminder of service for many U.S. military veterans and their families. However, sometimes those awards can be lost or damaged - whether through theft, disaster or just misplacement. Fortunately, you can replace such medals with relative ease.
Determine who should make the request. The military will only issue replacement medals to the veteran or the next of kin. Therefore, if a family is attempting to replace medals for a deceased service member, the surviving person most closely related to the veteran has to make the request. The accepted order for next of kin is first the surviving spouse, following by children, followed by any surviving parent of the veteran, then the veteran's grandchildren, siblings, or any surviving grandparents. If you're a veteran, make the request yourself. Go to your commanding officer if you're still on active duty and ask him to reissue your replacement medals.
Request service records from the right place. You may request your own, or your relative's Army or Air Force service records either online via the National Archives eVetRecs form or by filling out a paper SF-180 form, which is available online as well as at local VA offices.
Mail your request to The National Personnel Records Center. If you can't get the SF-180, you can write to the NPRC with as much information as you have about the service member (name, branch of service, entry date or social security number) and request they do a records search. If you or your related veteran was in the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard you must write the Navy Personnel Command
Liaison Office. The National Archives website (See References below) gives the contact addresses.
Visit your nearest base exchange and purchase your replacement medals if you're still on active duty. If you're retired or the next of kin collecting for a deceased veteran, your requested medals will come free of charge in the mail from the appropriate branch of the service.
When writing to the National Personnel Records Center, include as much identifying information as possible. There are more than 70 million records on file, so the more data you can give the better they can find the record you're looking for.
Be wary of any online sites selling military medals, as they're often fakes. It is always best and usually free to get your medals straight from the U.S. government.