Many people think that the military continues to forward mail to the addresses of its former personnel after they leave service, but it does not. This means that you'll have to do your own sleuthing to find an ex-service buddy. Luckily, military veterans are people, just like anyone else. You can often find them using a people-locator website that specializes in military look-ups, and several veteran services organizations offer assistance if you know where to look.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs will pass on a message to your friend as long as it has an up-to-date address for him on file. Simply write a letter to your service buddy and place it in a stamped envelope. Don't seal the envelope since the VA will read the letter to make sure it's appropriate. Next, write to the VA asking for help with your search. Describe the veteran you wish to find, including branch of service, unit name, service number, dates he served in the military, service locations, and date of birth or approximate age. Take both letters to your nearest VA regional office. Staff there will forward the letter to the address they have on file. Hopefully, your buddy will now get in touch with you.
Veteran Services Organizations
The VA maintains a list of veteran services organizations that may be able to help you. Most are service-specific, so navigate to the VA website and click on the service that best fits the veteran you are looking for, for example, Vietnam Veterans of America or Disabled American Veterans. For privacy reasons, these organizations cannot give out addresses. However, they should be able to forward a message if your buddy is part of the organization. Some websites have active forums on which you can post requests for information about specific vets.
Free Reunion Websites
Military.com is the largest online military community. It maintains a database of more than 20 million military records and offers a free "Buddy Locator" service to help you find ex-service members. You can search the database by name, age, location, branch, rank and more. VetConnect is Google's way of helping veterans connect with each other. You'll need a Google+ plus account to sign up but, once logged in, Google will hook you up with veterans who have a similar service profile to you. Even if your friend is not listed, you may reunite with former service buddies who have information on her whereabouts.
Use a Paid Locator Service
If a free search isn't turning up the information you're looking for, try plugging in to a paid service. Together We Served claims to reconnect more veterans every year than any other locator service, so it may be worth the membership fee. VetFriends has a similar locator service that lets you browse the military unit by service dates. Type in your service details to pull up a list of old service buddies; then use the private messaging service to reconnect. Packages typically start at around $10 per month.
A former corporate real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and personal finance, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.