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How Can I Prove I Received an Honorable Discharge?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Army and reenlisted 3 years into my 4-year contract for an additional 5 years. I was honorably discharged in Iraq for a few seconds to reenlist. I got back from my third tour to Iraq and I was over the weight standards. After a year of trying to lose the weight I was separated 1 year and 11 months into my SECOND enlistment.  I was given a general under honorable conditions discharge, but it was for both enlistments. I don’t understand why my DD-214 doesn’t show 2 separate periods of enlistment. The first “honorable” and the second “under honorable conditions”. How can I prove to the VA that I have an fully honorable discharge for my first term if my DD214 doesn’t show it. Should I bring my reenlistment papers?

A: The problem is you did not have two enlistments – you had one enlistment and one re-enlistment; there is a big difference between the two. To have two enlistments, you would have needed at a one-day break in service between the two terms of service, which it sounds like you did not have.

With you saying you were  ”honorably discharged in Iraq for a few seconds to reenlist” sounds like you were manipulated, because a service does not discharge you when you re-enlist. They put you into whatever status they needed to for your re-enlistment to get approved, but it was not a discharge. Think about it – why would they discharge you when you were 3 years into your 4-year enlistment? If they discharged you, you would have needed a whole new enlistment contract and not re-enlistment papers.

Showing the VA a copy of your re-enlistment papers won’t accomplish anything as your re-enlistment has nothing to do with your discharge – the Army discharged you because of your failure to comply with AR  600-9. Unfortunately, your discharge status prevents you from using the GI Bill.

Your best bet now is to file a discharge appeal with the Army Board of Corrections explaining what happened and that you were duped into believing you were honorably discharged when in fact you were not.  Good luck.

Comments  (4)

This was the most wrong advice I’ve ever heard. I was in the Marines and have a similar situation. I reenlisted at three years, and YES, you do get discharged!!!! I have a picture in Iraq of my Honorable discharge with my reenlistment contract. You get discharged for a few minutes before you reenlist. A lot of people pretend to run for the door during this limbo minute as a joke. Also, a reenlistment is a period of enlistment, and in this case, the second one was incomplete. The first enlistment, however, was over 36 months and qualifies as a period of honorable service for both GI Bills, Chapter 30 and 33.

posted by Jonathan
5:43 am on June 29, 2010

Jonathan, I’m here to tell you the “discharge” really isn’t a discharge. It’s just a “technical/ administrative” thing. Under a normal reenlistment, your enlistment ends on one day and your new enlistment starts the next day.

However, when you reenlist early for your new enlistment to work, the old one has to be finished first. So what they do is “discharge” you the day before you re-enlist and “enlist” you the next day or even the same day. They do that by “discharging” you on paper. but it is not really an actual discharge.

A “discharge for immediate reenlistment” (which is what we are talking about) isn’t a reenlistment option at all, it’s a qualification indicating you meet the requirements to reenlist. With this qualification, you can reenlist prior to your current contractual ETS, instead of waiting until the day of your ETS. It also allows your new contractual time to start the day you reenlist, not adding on additional time at your current ETS.

So in the end, you are NOT really discharged. If you were, then it would appear on your DD214 and I’m willing to bet it doesn’t.

When I was a 1SG and CSM, I never issued the Honorable Discharge certificates for reenlistments, because they do what happened to both of your guys – create a false impression of an actual discharge. Instead, I used a Certificate of Reenlistment.

posted by Ron Kness
8:47 am on June 30, 2010

Jonathan, My son just re-listed a few weeks ago in the US Army, and he was given and presented with an Honorable Discharge Certifcate. He even has it shown on his Facebook page w/ his Commander. So do not all Commanders/Srgts present re-enlisters w/ a certificate? Why did they for my son? He signed on for another 5 years -I’m not sure what rank he will be, but he was (if I’m correct) SPC? as an MP (currently in A-Stan.

posted by Rebecca D
3:39 pm on August 17, 2012

They are supposed to, however many units don’t make it the ceremony that it should be and they only had it to the soldier. Your son is fortunate in that he is in a unit with a Commander that cares and does things right.

posted by Ron Kness
10:36 am on September 9, 2012
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