THE VIEW FROM PLUM LICK
Recovering symbols of service
A little detective work and patience can replace veterans’ ribbons and medals
As promised in last month’s The View from Plum Lick, here’s how you might replace missing or lost military ribbons.
I served aboard the U.S.S. Manchester during the Korean Conflict, when I was 21 years old and weighed 119 pounds dripping wet.
In the years that followed Honorable Discharge, my old uniform and its ribbons were nowhere to be found. They went the way of teenage sneakers, out-of-style ties, and flashy Windsor knots.
Yet, from time to time, the memory of shore bombardment would flash across my brain, and I would wonder—what happened to my service ribbons? Never mind the 13-button bellbottoms and the salty white hat.
My wife heard this lament and went to work. At a family gathering, she surprised me with replacements of all my ribbons and medals. She’d framed them along with my pea coat and a picture of the U.S.S. Manchester.
Here’s how she did it:
“The link I went to was www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/public/awards-and-decorations.html. That’s a long address, but it’ll give you the breakdown on all the branches of service and the addresses to which to write.
“In the second paragraph on that site, there’s a link to SF180 (Request Pertaining to Military Records) that you can print out and send in.
“Then, using the Web site’s recommended address, I wrote a letter to the proper department (in this case, for the Navy, to St. Louis), sent copies of David’s military records, and sat back and waited.
“I was led to believe that it would take about six weeks.
“Twelve weeks later, I’d not heard anything from St. Louis, so I wrote to the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C., and, again, included all of David’s military history, and told them of the request sent to St. Louis.
“On July 8, 2009 (16 weeks from the beginning of this quest), I received a set of medals from Washington…then two days later, I received another set from St. Louis, but this time, the St. Louis set had five medals, which included the 50th Anniversary of the Korean Conflict medal and ribbon.
“My cousin, John Harvey, whose hobby is all things military, provided the Web site www.navsource.org for historical photos of Navy ships.
“That’s all there is to it…pretty self-explanatory, but if you get into a jam and need some further information, I’d be most happy to help if I can. We can be reached at www.plumlickpublishing.com.”
There’s no charge for this sharing of information. The good feeling that comes with reaching out to a buddy who has served his or her country is more than enough reward.
We blow hot and cold on modern communications, but this is one of those times when we have cause to celebrate the Internet.
At the same time, we should remember those who never came back—those who paid the supreme price.
Ribbons and medals alone, after all, are only symbols—of time and circumstance.