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Military Service Records: How To Lookup By Name For Free

Are you looking to search for military records? 

The National Archives offers a database of veterans that individuals may search for free, on most occasions.

The free military records search is helpful for confirming service along with other documentation.

For example, the service also assists veterans with retrieving benefits, employment, medical, and retirement information.

Learn how to do a military service records search for free, below.

Related Article6 Free Ways To Check If Someone Was In The Military / Verify Service

National Archives Free Military Records Search

find a veteran by name

Are you looking to complete a military service records search for free?

If so, the National Archives is your best bet.

The Veterans Services Records database grants free searches to retrieve most data.

As a result, the military records search may locate information such as:

  • DD 214 / Separation Documents
  • Official Military Personnel File (OMPF)
  • Medical & Health Records
  • Replacement Medals

Furthermore, the National Archives database gives the option to make Burials and Emergency Requests, along with Natural Disaster Requests.

Additionally, the service is often used by military dependents and others for special requests, like applying for home loans.

You can learn more about what they do in this informative Youtube video below: 

The free military records search also confirms the service of veterans, for those curious.

In general, the best way to submit a new military records search is online.

However, the National Archives also accepts requests via mail or fax.

Also, it’s worth noting that the Veterans Service Records department does not display recent military service and medical records online.

Nonetheless, most veterans (as well as next of kin) may obtain free copies of DD Form 214 and other military records through the online portal.

The National Archives asks that individuals making requests remain patient while inquiries are being processed.

Still, if you would like to check on the status of a request, feel free to contact the NPRC customer service.

The customer service line is available Monday – Friday (8am – 6pm EST) at 314-801-0800.

Now, here are step-by-step instructions for submitting a military records search online:

Step 1: Start Military Records Search Online

military records search
An example of a DD-214. Image:

Do you need to complete a military records search?

First, check with the National Archives to discover what they have on the veteran.

Veterans Service Records search obtains the following information:

  • DD 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge)
  • Official Military Personnel File (OMPF)
  • Military Benefits
  • Medical Records
  • Retirement Records
  • Replacement Medals
  • Personal Military History
  • Burial Requests
  • Emergency Requests

In general, DD Form 214 (Report of Separation) is available for free online.

However, some documents may come with a small fee.

Thus, to begin a free military records search, click on “Start Request Online”:

request military service records

Then, “Make a New Request”:

online military service records request

Individuals also have the option of checking on an existing military records search, here, as well.

Finally, the Privacy Act of 1974 is available for review along with other applicable legal documents.

Step 2: Submit Basic Information

The National Archives free military records search is divided into 5 different sections.

On average, a typical search takes less than 5 minutes to complete with the proper documentation.

The Veterans Service Records request is separated into the following categories:

  • Basic Information
  • Service & Request Details
  • Report of Separation
  • Review and Submit

First, you’ll need to provide some basic information.

request veteran records by name

The military records search needs to know if you are the veteran making the request or next of kin.

Secondly, you need to specify if you are seeking information about current or former military service:

Veterans that were discharged, retired, or perished in service 62 years or more ago are deemed “archival records”.

Consequently, these types of military records are transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The National Archives makes this information free and open to the public.

It’s because the Privacy Act of 1974 does not apply to veterans under the status of archival records.

For this reason, those seeking military records regarding a veteran that was in service 60+ years ago must pay a small fee.

The Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) is delivered electronically (or via standard mail) after payment is made on the website.

Step 3: Veteran Service Details

Next, you need to report service and request details.

In other words, the military records search needs the service branch, service component, and type of enlistment:

The information helps narrow down the search to appropriate candidates.

Thus, this is the most important information you need about a veteran if you are next of kin.

Finally, determine which category best summarizes why you’re requesting the military records:

There are many reasons why you may want to conduct a National Archives search.

Step 4: Report of Separation

There are a few different items the search needs for a report of separation:

  • Veteran Information
  • Documents
  • Requester Information

First, basic details such as name, social security number, date of birth, and service number are required.

It also helps to know the date the veteran first entered as well as left service.

Next, specify the documents requested.

For example, what type of report of separation are you requesting?

The National Archives provides most DD Form 214 free of charge.

Be that as it may, you must determine whether you want to include all details of the report, or a deleted/altered copy.

You may also leave comments for the department, including additional documents you wish to obtain.

Lastly, you must provide a few basic details about yourself.

These include first and last name, mailing address, and email address.

It’s crucial that you provide a valid email address in order to process the request correctly.

The email address allows you to communicate directly with the National Archives, as well as receive results faster.

Step 5: Review & Submit Military Records Search

Finally, review and submit the military records search.

The online service provides a breakdown of all the information you entered into the request.

However, before you enter submit, make sure you review for any typos or inaccuracies.

These mistakes may delay how quickly your military records search is processed.

For this reason, take the time to review the application to make sure everything is correct.

Do you notice an error?

The request process enables users to retreat to a particular step in order to edit the information.

Before you exit the webpage, make sure that you electronically sign the military records request.

You may also want to save a copy for your own records.

Then, click on “Submit Request”.

Step 6: Military Records Search Confirmation

Congratulations, by now, you should receive a confirmation.

The confirmation page ensures that your military records search was processed.

Now, it just takes time for the National Archives to review before getting back with a response.

Thus, make sure you document that service request number for future inquiries.

The National Archives asks that veterans monitor their spam and junk folders for emails from

Furthermore, you may check the status of an existing request by revisiting the Veterans Service Records homepage (see: Step 1: Start Military Records Search Online).

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Military Records Search FAQs

Do you have questions regarding the National Archives veterans / military records search?

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers:

Who can request military service records?

The military veteran or retiree.

Furthermore, military service records are available to the next of kin of:

  • A deceased service member
  • Former member of the military

The department accepts next of kin as a surviving spouse (who has not remarried), father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother.

These qualifying next of kin are eligible to receive military records, including Form DD 214.

Meanwhile, public access to military records varies depending on the date of discharge.

For example, any records of service members that are 62 years or more are considered “archival records.”

Therefore, a small cost is associated with retrieving military records.

Otherwise, the service is mostly free of charge.

Is the military records search free?

Yes, absolutely, in most cases.

However, there is a cost associated with military records requests that date back further than 62 years.

Otherwise, in general, there is no charge for obtaining basic military records such as DD 214 and medical information.

Fortunately, this service is available for free thanks to the National Archives and Records Administration.

What information do I need for a search?

You can save time completing a military records search by having as much information about the veteran as possible.

For starters, you need the full name of a veteran (first, middle, and last name).

Secondly, the social security number and birth date are extremely helpful.

Third, any relevant to military service such as military branch, service number, and dates of service are resourceful.

Those that are next of kin of a deceased veteran must also provide proof of death.

Lastly, all requests must be signed and dated by the veteran or next of kin before being processed.

Can I check the status of my records request?

Yes, it’s very simple to do so.

  • First, return to the homepage of the Veterans Service Records
  • Click “Request Service Records Online.”
  • Then, click “Start New Request”
  • Once prompted to the next page, click on “Check Status of Existing Request”

You will need to enter the service request number in order to process the update.

Do not know the service request number?

You can make a request to retrieve that information with the National Archives.

Additionally, the National Archives customer service is available Monday through Friday.

Response times vary from the government branch depending on the complexity of your request.

Please keep in mind that the National Archives receives thousands of military service requests each day.

Therefore, it does you no good submitting multiple requests or harassing the department with frequent phone calls.

Can civilians access veterans’ records?

It depends on the situation.

Military records are open to the public 62 years after separation.

Meanwhile, any military separation before that date is protected by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Therefore, those military records are only available to next of kin or subjected to access restrictions.

However, certain military documents (like DD 214) may be available to the general public.

Related ArticleDD215 Form: 5 Things You Need To Know


Do you need to search military service records?

The National Archives features the best database, primarily because it’s accurate and free (in most situations).

The database is able to retrieve service information, including official military personnel file (OMPF) and separation documents (such as DD 214).

Meanwhile, veterans may also track down medical/health records, retirement records, and other special requests.

The National Archives also provides this service for burial/emergency requests as well as replacement medals.

Furthermore, it’s a way to examine military records to make sure they contain accurate information regarding your time in service.

As a result, the National Archives Veterans Service Records resource is the best way to search for free.

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Military Lookup By Name

Military Lookup By Name

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Are you looking to search for military records? Veterans and next of kin may receive reports for free thanks to the National Archives.
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