Illinois Treasurer hopes to reunite service members with war medals

November 15, 2011

Online Staff Report

CHICAGO — The vault beneath the Illinois State Capitol contains thousands of lost or forgotten valuables, including almost 200 military artifacts belonging to men and women who have dutifully served our country. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is focused on reuniting the rightful owners with their medals, ribbons and awards.

The valuable military awards span more than a century of American conflict — one medal even dates back to the Spanish American War, circa 1890. Other priceless items include service records, dog tags and commendations from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

It is my goal to reunite these very important military medals and awards with the men and women who earned them through their great sacrifice and service,” Rutherford said. “I am proud to be undertaking this project, and hope to reunite all the items with their rightful owners.”

The effort to return these military artifacts is being titled Operation Reunite. Former Illinois State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Highland, who is a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient himself, is serving as the honorary chairman of this project.

This undertaking is important to me because I fully understand how precious these awards are to service members or their surviving families,” Stephens said. “Working in state government is about service, and I view this effort as a wonderful way to serve and honor our American heroes from Illinois.”

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office came to be the caretaker of these medals, awards and 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 safety deposit box and then subsequently 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.

For more about Operation Reunite, visit http://www.treasurer.il.gov or call the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division at (217) 785-6998.

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