Saturday, March 2, 2013

Honoring our Military Ancestors

Just a bit off topic but too important not to share....

As many genealogists have learned, the tragic fire of 1973 resulted in the loss of many military personnel files.  Even though the U.S. Government has made great progress in its efforts to reconstruct those files, the work continues. The records that were lost pertained to millions of service men and women who were discharged from the Army between 1912 and 1960 and from the Air Force between 1947 and 1964. Those records had not been duplicated or preserved on microfilm or any other medium, so when the originals were destroyed, all traces were lost. See the National Archives report.

My late husband was a veteran of WW II and, like so many, he spoke very little of his experiences. When he died in 1991, I was determined to learn more about his life and family.

My first efforts to learn about his military career were fruitless. I was told no records existed and that was it; I had no recourse.... until I learned that the military was applying renewed focus on the effort to reconstruct the missing files. They were collecting records from military hospitals, unit histories, and oral histories from survivors. They were also requesting that families of servicemen who served in the missing years send them copies of any military discharge papers or other items. I dutifully sent in the one paper my husband had in his possession. Later, I learned that a survivor could request copies of the medals and awards he received just by asking for them.

I proceeded to make this request. It took a while, some years in fact, but I have been so well rewarded for my patience. This branch of the government is dedicated to the task of filling the void left by that awful tragedy. I now have a full report of his awards and the real badges are arriving in the mail as they are recreated. They are exact replicas, incredible items to add to a family's history and keepsakes collection.

I urge everyone to scour their family papers in search of military papers that could aid in this reconstruction effort. Also, write to see if your ancestor's military service records are available and if he received any awards or badges that reflect honor to his service: http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/public/general-public.html.

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