Dick Dutton of Ahwatukee Foothills never thought about tracking down the medals he was entitled to after serving two years in the Korean War.
The retired chemistry and math teacher didn’t know what medals he earned.
After he got out of the service, Dutton just wanted to keep those memories of fighting on the front line behind him.
However, after his niece helped him get five medals and a badge he earned, he said he is "damn proud" of his accomplishments.
"Even if you don’t want them for yourself, it will be a prize to your descendents," said Dutton, 75, who received his medals in the mail in April and June.
Many veterans never receive the medals they are entitled to, and may not know the steps needed to get their medals. Although it takes perseverance, patience and connecting with the right people, many of those medals are attainable.
Dutton received a commemorative medal for the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, a good conduct medal, a National Defense medal for serving overseas, a United Nations medal for serving in Korea, a combat infantry badge and a U.S. Service medal in Korea with a bronze star.
Dutton’s niece, Wendy Gilliam-Jensen, helped three people get their medals, including her uncle, her deceased father and a friend from work.
"I’m sure a lot of veterans didn’t receive their medals," said Gilliam-Jensen, 45, a bookkeeper in Lincoln, Neb. "It’s a proud point in their lives. If it wasn’t for them, where would we be?"
Her local Veterans Affairs office suggested writing to the National Personnel Records Center, Medals Section (nrpma-m), 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
Along with the letter Gilliam-Jensen wrote requesting "all awards, emblems, medals, badges" that the person is entitled to due to their service, she also sent a copy of the veteran’s discharge paper and a request pertaining to military records.
She waited several months, then called Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who helped her get the medals. Gilliam-Jensen suggests calling a local politician who is willing to help.
Roger Carnes helped his father, Robert L. Carnes of Sun Lakes, get 22 medals he earned during World War II, and has suggestions for veterans trying to get their medals.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s Web site is www.nara.gov, and each military branch has a Web site. The book "World War II Military Records: A Family Historian’s Guide" by Debra Johnson Knox, was helpful in his research.
Local veterans groups also may be able to help, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Dutton plans to frame his medals and badge, then hang them on a wall. The medals will then be handed down to his kids. He has five children and eight grandchildren with his wife of 54 years, Wilma.
When asked if veterans should try to get their medals, Dutton said, "Go for it. Get them."