For many veterans, most of their best friends were made in the military. But after you end your service and transition to civilian life, you might have lost touch with the people who helped you get through the day back then.
If you’ve been thinking of reconnecting with somebody from the military, you might not be able to easily find them, especially if they moved to live in a different area, and you no longer have up-to-date contact details for them.
The good news is that searching for a military veteran is easier than ever. The internet is a great place to start, and there are a number of government-provided resources and veteran organizations that can help.
Using Government Resources
The government has a range of resources available to help you find somebody who served in the military. Before you start, you will need to gather some personal information about the friend that you are looking for. The more information you have on them, the better; this will narrow your search down and make it easier to find them. You should have:
- The branch of military service that they were in
- Their military unit name and location
- The dates that they served
- Their birth date
- Their service number or social security number
- The area in which they were born or grew up
- The location of where they entered or exited military service
The National Archives Military Personnel Record Center (MPRC) is a good place to start, as you can have them forward a letter to any veteran’s last known address. First, you will need to get in touch with the MPRC via letter and ask them to help with your search.
You should include as much information as you can about the veteran you’re looking for, and enclose a letter that you want to send to them with a stamped envelope. Don’t seal the letter as the MPRC will read it first to ensure that it’s appropriate.
If your friend has filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, they may also be able to forward a letter to their address on record for you.
If you don’t get very far using the resources provided by the government to help you find your friend, for example, if the address on record for them is an old one, then you might want to consider the range of non-governmental resources available. Thankfully, there are plenty of options.
Start with a search of Public Records Reviews; all you need to do is enter the information that you have on your friend and the website will search a database of records to help you find them. There is even a military people finder tool; this tool can help locate people who have served in the military in the past or are currently serving. If your friend has returned to military service, it’ll be easier for you to get up to date records for them.
Sometimes, it’s the simple things that reap the best results; a quick Google search of your friend’s name and last known location might bring up results that you didn’t expect. Maybe they have started a website or blog since you last saw them; if this is the case, then it should list a contact email address or have a contact form that you can use to get in touch with them.
Social media is also a good place to start; try Facebook and LinkedIn as most people will use their real name, rather than a username for these sites and therefore make it easier to find people. Younger veterans, in particular, tend to be active on social media, so it can be an excellent way to find somebody who you served with in the past. And don’t forget that if you can’t find your friends themselves, it’s always worth looking for their relatives or other friends who may be able to help put you in touch.
Contact a Veteran Services Organization
Finally, you can find a complete list of veteran services organizations on the VA website. Many will be able to help you find your friend and some are service or unit-specific, which could help you narrow the search down even further.
The American Legion – these can sometimes forward mail to a veteran’s last known address, although you may be required to become a member if you are not already.
AMVETS – This large veteran association may be able to help you find resources to aid your search, or forward a letter to your friend’s last known address.
Disabled American Veterans – They may be able to forward a letter or provide you with more resources.
Jewish War Veterans – If you are looking for a Jewish veteran, they may hold some further information on them and be able to put you in touch.
Whether you lost touch due to leaving the military at different times, or simply drifted away due to physical distance, the good news is that there are plenty of resources at hand to find an old military friend.