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Randolph medal room stores hidden treasures

Basement room houses medal recognitions, replacement program

SAN ANTONIO – Tucked away in a small room in the basement of the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph is a treasure trove of hundreds of types of military medals for the Air Force and Army Air Corps.

It's part of a congressional-mandated program to replace military medals and ribbons. The Recognitions Program office is the only one to serve the entire Air Force.

"If they're lost, if they're stolen, (or) in some cases, if they're unserviceable, we provide replacements for them, free of charge," said Will Brown, chief of the Air Force Evaluations and Recognitions Programs Branch.

Stacked in boxes from floor to ceiling, there are about $2.1 million worth of medals in the room. The esteemed Medal of Honor is kept in a vault but other rare medals are easily accessed.

The medals date back to the early 1900s. The oldest one kept at the office is the Occupation of Germany Medal from World War I.

Each medal represents a piece of history. The walls of boxes bring to mind different conflicts and victories. There are also the personal accomplishments behind the awards.

"Each one of these medals has a story behind it. The way that the individual earned that medal or was awarded that medal has a story. These awards are a lot more than cloth and metal. They mean a lot to the veterans that get them," said Kipp Nave, manager of recognitions.

Every year, the office receives about 45,000 requests for replacement medals.

Some requests are handwritten from veterans or their next of kin. Sometimes requests come from elected representatives wanting to present the medal to a veteran.

Often, a veteran isn't aware of awards they earned and they were never claimed. In some cases, those awards can be used as evidence of service to receive VA benefits.

"If they need verification that they were part of a certain campaign or conflict, we do that through awards of medals. We actually correct their records after we award these medals so that do become permanently part of their military personnel file," said Brown.

There are similar military medal replacement services for all branches of the military.

If you'd like to check to see if you or a family member is due an award or need one replaced, you can file a request online here.