State treasurer asks Illinois residents for help finding owners of forgotten military medals | News
On this Memorial Day weekend, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is asking Illinois residents to take a moment to check the official list of names with the Operation Reunite program. Operation Reunite is a program that strives to link veterans and their families with any unclaimed military medals, awards, and military artifacts that have been transferred to the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division. Rutherford launched Operation Reunite in 2011, shortly after taking office.
“This week I had the pleasure of returning a Purple Heart to an honored Illinois veteran’s grandson. We have given back several military medals, but we still have 108 medals in our vault waiting to be claimed,” said Rutherford.
“Memorial Day is the perfect opportunity to visit our website and check to see if you have any friends or family that may appear on our Operation Reunite list. It is my goal to return each and every one of the medals and awards that belong to these veterans or their heirs.” The list of names is printed on the Operation Reunite brochure, which can be found at www.treasurer.il.gov.
Most notably in the past year, Rutherford returned two Purple Hearts to a woman in Rockford whose family earned the medals, and returned a Bronze Star to veteran Tommy Fenton of Mt. Vernon, meaning two families now have their loved one’s honors in their hands. Other military medals the treasurer’s office has in its custody include, but are not limited to, Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, a Navy Cross, and a Spanish American War Medal.
“It is quite a challenge to track down those who own these medals. If anyone recognizes a name on the list, please let us know,” explained Rutherford. “While we typically have cities connected to the names of most medal owners, and perhaps even a last known address, enough time has passed that the address is no longer valid. Receiving a tip about a veteran’s new address or the whereabouts of the veterans’ families would likely allow us to reunite these medals with the rightful owners.” The email address for the Unclaimed Property Division is info@Icash.Illinois.gov or they can be contacted at 217-785-6998.
The vault located beneath the Illinois State Capitol contains thousands of lost or forgotten valuables, including nearly 200 military artifacts, which includes medals, belonging to the men or women who have dutifully served our country. The valuable military awards span more than a century of American conflict, including one medal that dates back to the Spanish American War, circa 1898. Other priceless items include service records, dog tags and commendations from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office came to be the caretaker of these military artifacts after they were lost or forgotten. Often, a veteran of the armed forces or a family member has stored these objects in a bank’s safe deposit box and forgotten about them over time. Banks eventually relinquish stewardship of the contents of these boxes to the treasurer's office. The treasurer then serves as the custodian for these items, storing and protecting them in the state vault under the Capitol until they may be reunited with whom they rightfully belong.