The Illinois state treasurer has announced “Operation Purple Heart,” an effort to return 11 Purple Heart medals to their rightful owners. One of the medals was found in Round Lake.
Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said the military honors were submitted to his office for safekeeping and return as part of the Unclaimed Property program.
“These medals personify honor, sacrifice, and duty,” Frerichs said. “They belong in the loving care of families rather than hidden inside our cold basement vault.”
The treasurer’s office said they hope attention to the upcoming Veterans Day tributes will spark a memory or provide a clue so that the medals can be returned.
Military medals are among the most difficult items to return because the name under which the honor was submitted as unclaimed property might not correspond to the name of the honoree, the treasurer’s office said.
Neither the Armed Forces nor the federal government maintains a comprehensive list of awardees. It is also possible that the military honor under which the medal was submitted is not related to the awardee.
The treasurer’s office is releasing a limited amount of information below that the owners or their relatives might recognize:
- Cawthon, Received, Nov. 1, 1992, Portland, Oregon
- Wilson, Received, Nov. 13, 1995, Chicago, Illinois
- Burns, Received, Nov. 5, 1997, Homewood, Illinois
- Moore, Received, Oct. 17, 2001, Peoria, Illinois
- Smith, Received, Nov. 18, 2002, Oak Park, Illinois
- Gorski, Received, Oct. 30, 2003, Darien, Illinois
- Tuttle, Received, Oct. 25, 2018, Decatur, Illinois
- Alexander, Received, Oct. 26, 2018, Channahon, Illinois
- Isbell or Shayer, Received, Oct. 31, 2018, Chicago, Illinois
- Steward or VanHasselaere, Received, Oct. 31, 2018, Round Lake, Illinois
- Wiest, Received, Oct. 23, 2019, O’Fallon, Illinois
“Our ask is simple. If you recognize a name, and you know they lived in the city, then reach out to them because maybe we have their Purple Heart,” Frerichs said.
The honors were secured in a bank safe deposit box and untouched for several years before being submitted to the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office.
The treasurer’s office will vet inquiries after an electronic claim is made at www.illinoistreasurer.gov/icash.
Since 2015, the treasurer’s office has successfully reunited seven Purple Hearts with their owners or heirs.
It did so through an internal investigatory process and the office is required by law to try to return unclaimed property.