Q: How can I get a copy of my discharge papers from the Army?
A: There are several ways to request discharge, or separation, records.
You're looking for DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If you have Internet access, you can put in an e-request at www.archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs/index.html. Otherwise, you'll need to submit Standard Form 180 (SF 180), which can be ordered by phone, mail or online.
To request SF 180 by phone, call the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo., (not toll-free) at 314-801-0800 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST. To request it by mail, write to the NPRC, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, Mo. 63132. You can also download it from www.archives.gov/research/order/standard-form-180.pdf.
Under normal circumstances, it takes about two weeks for the NPRC to fulfill a request. However, on Jan. 12, 1973, a devastating fire consumed 16 million to 18 million military personnel documents. If archivists are unable to locate your records, alternate sources of military service data can be researched, such as pay vouchers and medical records, but the task will take a bit longer.
Military records are usually free for veterans; you'll be notified if any service fees apply.