I read your note on the email from the Chiefs Group at Barksdale AFB La.
While I do not have a problem, as a Military Personnel Supt. with the Air Force Reserve for most of my career I am very well aware of the problem of "Proof of Service".
Two years ago a MSgt in the AFRes and a Civil Service Air Reserve Technician was noted with having a bad hearing problem by the Medics on a Physical. They were telling him it was not service connected and that he was going to be processed for Medical Discharge and was complicated by the fact they thought he had hid the information. This also would have cost him his Civil Service Position. After talking to me and some others he realized his hearing problem may have come from something that happened to him in Viet Nam back in the 1970's. He was a Air Force Aircraft Mechanic with a O-2 unit attached to the Army when he was hit in a mortar attack on the Army Base. He had very little memory of it. We found a Chaplain that had helped carry him to the Army Aid Station, who told him that he was bleeding from the ears and nose and was unconscious for 5 days. As he was Air Force at a Army site his Air Force Medical Records never were updated with this information. Not only were we able to save his career, but he was issued the Purple Heart. He had tried in the past to get treatment at the VA, but had been denied as he had no proof of a military caused medical condition. Now he is able to be treated by the VA, and qualifies for other benefits here in South Carolina.
Other examples I am VERY MUCH AWARE OF are members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard who served in Viet Nam and other places for short times.
Flying in and training the South Viet Nam Air Force on C-119's and C-123'
Aircrew who flew in and out of Viet Nam on C-97's, C-121's, C-124's, C-130's, C-141A's and C-5A's hauling for MATS
Ground crew from the Air Guard who went over to service the C-121's in Electronic Warfare units.
Medical Aircrew who flew in to Viet Nam on Air Evacuation Missions
Air Guard Aircrew and ground crew who operated a F-102A site while the Active Duty trained on other aircraft with the Air Defense Mission in South Viet Nam
I am aware of a whole lot of other missions that the ANG and AFRes units did in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's. The problem is that they were not Recalled to Active duty such as what happened twice in 1968 when ANG and AFRes along with other services were mobilized. When you are mobilized you are issued a DD Form 214 at the end of the tour, which is normally proof of service. When you are called as a volunteer for the other times I listed above THEY WERE NOT AUTHORIZED TO BE ISSUED A DD FORM 214. In the Guard, when you complete a enlistment you are issued a NGB Form 22 which is similar to the DD Form 214 that shows your service. Members of the Air Force Reserve DO NOT RECEIVE ANYTHING OTHER THAN A COPY OF DISCHARGE AND OR REENLISTMENT ORDERS. I had been part of workshop back in 1988 at HQ AFRes, Robins AFB Ga., to try and come up with a document for Air Force Reserve Members, but after we left nothing ever came of it.
As a result most members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve have a very hard time if ever proving any service that might qualify them for VA benefits. I happened to also have Prostate Cancer, and I leader of a Us Too! Prostate Cancer Support Group here in Charleston SC, I can tell you that former members of the Air Force Reserve who flew meny missions to Viet Nam in C-141A's have a very hard time with the VA. At this time I do not know of any of them that has been able to prove that they were in Viet Nam. The VA wants the DD Form 214 PERIOD. I am also aware of Regular Air Force aircrew who flew on MATS aircraft in and out of Viet Nam who never thought when they separated or retired that they NEEDED that Viet Nam service recorded. As MATS aircrew they were based in the USA and only flew missions in and out. As a result there old AF Fm 4's and AF Fm 7's have no record of their service. If they can find their old aircrew records they might have a chance, but most were not given them when they left the base.
Unfortunately my career field (AFSC 73200) at HQ Air Force Reserve (Now Air Force Reserve Command) has been aware of the problem, but like a lot of other things that help our people they have chosen not to do anything about it. While assigned to 14th AF Military Personnel in 1984 to 1987 and here in Charleston from 1987 to 1995 I spoke to Senior Officers, AFRes Senior Enlisted Advisors, and Personnel people at AFRes and NOTHING. They did not see the problem at all. One reason just might be that if members of the Reserve Forces could prove service connected medical problems it would cost the VA more money. It is almost impossible for a member of the Reserve Forces to get a Medical Separation that would give them any benefits.
I am aware of members of my AF Reserve Aerial Port Squadron that went as a unit to the Sand Box in December 1990 who have died of what I believe service connected medical conditions. They had been up to Kuwait when the Oil Fires were going and other places in Iraq. When they came back, they were given a short medical and sent home. Then as medical conditions came up if they went to the Medics - All Hell broke loose for them. First thing the Medics did was Profile them, which meant that they could not participate, so no money or points (Which is on how they are paid retirement when they get to age 60). If they did not have 20 good years to qualify for a retirement at age 60 - IT WAS GOOD BYE and don't let the door hit you in the ass. If they had 20 good years they would be retired with NO MEDICAL BENEFITS. Go to the VA is what they were told. I am aware of a couple who came down with Skin Cancer - No help for the Military. We also have what seems to be a very abnormal number of aircrew here in Charleston Air Force Reserve who have come down with Cancer in the Brain. As Reserve members normally live near the base, we are much more aware of what happens to them when they leave. Regular AF normally retire away from the last base so it is harder to track.
A few years ago I read where the DOD was trying to find all the people who had served in the Sand Box. Claimed that they did not have any record of most of them. Most were TDY to the Sand Box so records showed State Side or USAFE assignments. When I read that they had no computer records, I thought - STUPID they just do not know what's in the records. While it was true that the computer records did not show where they served, there DECORATION HISTORY DID. The South West Asia Service medal, had up to three Bronze Stars. It is always to be worn with the stars. Fist star was for Desert Shield, second was for Desert Storm, and the third was for after the war. If the computer record had the SWASM authorized then the person was in the theater. If he or she had two stars that meant they had to be there during the WAR. Also the Kuwait Government authorized a medal for all members who served there during the war. If that was in the computer record - Bingo - Served in theater. When I called the people who were trying to find our people, the response was "Oh its too late".
The same think may be true for some of your people back in the VN days. The old AF Form 7 should have typed in the RVCM, VSM with clusters, and all who served in Viet Nam supporting units, the VN Cross of Gallantry which was issued by the SVN Government. Back around 1971/1972 we in personnel transcribed from the AF Fm 7's most info into the Personnel Data System (PDS). Copies of the AF Form 7 were supposed to be filed in the AF Form 4 (A lot did not make it or were thrown out in later years). The AF Form 7 was supposed to be forward to the Master Record and filed there. For most of us today that mean they should be at the National Records Depository in St Louis. These records WERE NOT DESTROYED IN THE FIRE. If any one get a letter saying that, then check the Records web site. Only some WW 2 records were destroyed. Also when writing for there records, remember to include the OLD SERVICE NUMBER and SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. Some people may have had more than one Service Number, such as those that went from enlisted to officer, Special Types (SPOOKS) and such. One former Army Officer I know claims that he may have up to 4 Officers numbers, plus the original enlisted number when he first came in. If I remember right I think that when a Officer went from Career Reserve Status to Regular AF status they got a new Service Number. The Record Center need all those to find the records.
Hope this is of some help to your people. I know its long, but it was fun trying to remember all that stuff in the past. Good luck to all of you.