You were closer than family at one time. You’d do anything for him, and he'd do anything for you. Now years have gone by, and you’ve lost touch. But don't despair. If you want to reconnect with your old Army buddies, some good old-fashioned sleuthing can turn up long-lost friends. If not, there are tools and organizations ready to help you.
Use What You Know
If you have an old address or know someone who knows your Army buddy, start there. Even if your friend no longer lives at the address, a relative might – a relative who would be happy to forward your letter along. Old neighbors might also know where someone moved. And mutual friends and service members are also a great way to track down a vet's current location.
Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs
Although privacy laws prevent government workers from simply handing over a name and address, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does have resources that can help you connect. If the VA has a current address for your friend, it can forward a note from you. Put your letter in an unsealed, stamped envelope with your friend’s name on it. Provide the VA with as much information as you can, such as your friend’s name, rank, division, dates and locations he served and the last address you had for him. The VA can send the note. Then, you simply wait to see if your old Army buddy responds.
Do a Google Search
A simple Internet search is likely a long shot, but you can get granular by using quotation marks. Put your friend’s exact name in quotes, and then add other information, also using quotes. For example: “William G. Jones," "Army" and "Korea." If you get only a few hits, eliminate the quotes to expand your results.
Get on Social Media
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn make it much easier to find lost friends, regardless of how far away they move. All of the sites have search features; you simply punch in your friend’s name and scroll through the names and images. Unfortunately, if your friend has a particularly common name, it can be a little difficult. There might be hundreds of Joanne Smiths out there, so the more information you have, the better. For example, if you know her maiden name, she might use that on her social media accounts.
Connect With Military Groups
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and National Archives for military records might be able to help you locate your friend or those who served with him. The VFW has a vet/retired locator service that you can access for a small fee. Other military services also have lists they provide to former service members planning reunions. Additionally, several independent organizations help create reunions for vets, including obtaining lists of service members.