America’s Veterans and the National Archives

America’s Veterans and the National Archives


A lot of people in the public think that there’s
one big computer data base that the government has and all’s they have to do is key in
their personal data and they’ll find out everything there is to know about you. That’s
not at all how it works. My name is Scott Levins. I’m the Assistant Director for Military
Records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, which is an
office of the National Archives. This is a lot of boxes! We have 80 million items in
our holdings. They go back to the Spanish-American War. The records are all permanent records,
never to be destroyed so our mission is to preserve them for posterity but also to make
them available for people who need them now. I’m Ricky Moe. I am a retired veteran from
the Air Force. It’s real easy to get your records. First you go out to the National
Archives site. Then you click on it and you click on how to order your military records.
We receive approximately 5,000 requests every day. They can submit it online, they can fax
a request to us, even just mail us a letter through the regular Postal Service. I’m
gonna select what I want, I want Military Awards and Decorations. Type my name in. My
last name. You need to put a phone number for a daytime contact in case we have a hard
time finding your records so we’ll be able to call you and ask you for more information.
Now what comes up here is a signature page. You print that out. Make sure you sign it.
If you’ll fax it in to the number provided on the screen, that’s it. When it’s received
we enter it into our production system and we digitize the request. There’s Ricky Moe’s
record, right there. So what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna add his record to the batch
of search requests that we already have. And now I’m gonna assign it to one of the searchers.
I am Lanre Jones and I work at the National Archives. I’m a student so I pretty much
work part time. Typical day on an 8-hour day would be 240 records. Out of the 5,000 requests
that we receive every day about 75% of them will be serviced within 10 days or less. The
other 25%, well we might run into obstacles. In July of 1973 the building that we’re
in right now burned. The top floor of this building was lost. A great deal of records
were lost in that fire. This record right here has a page which was damaged in the fire.
We have a large number of records that were burned in the fire in 1973 and that’s the
bulk of our work here in the conservation lab. I have a case here for a Mr. Ricky Moe.
What the veteran is asking for is medals and awards. The first document that you would
want to look for is the DD 214. It tells me all medals and awards that the veteran has
earned while in service. We make two copies, two regular paper copies. And we would take
a seal and we will seal them. The response letter. We’ll sign that. Now you have a
completed case. If everything goes right, it happens in about six days.

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