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Forgotten War Medals Waiting to Be Claimed by Rightful Owners

Suburban veterans are among those whose military awards and artifacts sit in a vault beneath the State Capitol, and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford is trying to get the medals into the right hands. Can you help?

Do you know James R. Barry of Naperville? The state of Illinois has his military service medals and would like to get these awards back to the veteran.

The same goes for David Gorski of Darien, Kevin Barnes of Aurora and Bernice Smith of Oak Park.

These suburban men and women are among a few dozen Illinoisans who have unclaimed military medals, awards and artifacts sitting in the Illinois treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division vault.

The vault beneath the State Capitol contains thousands of lost or forgotten valuables, including nearly 200 military items. The 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, according to the Illinois Treasurer's office. 

Treasurer Dan Rutherford started Operation Reunite last year to get these items into the hands of the rightful owners and their family members.

“I don’t have many better duties as treasurer than to reunite a military medal with a veteran,” said Rutherford in a statement. “It is my goal to return each and every one of the medals and awards that belong to these veterans or their heirs.” 

Rutherford recently 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. 

“If anyone recognizes a name on the list, please let us know,” Rutherford asked. “While we have a city connected to the names of most of the medals, and perhaps even a last known address, enough time has passed that the address is no longer valid. To find a hint about the veterans’ new address, or the whereabouts of the veterans’ families, would likely allow us to reunite these medals with the rightful owners."

You may read the full list on the Operation Reunite page on the treasurer's website.

If you have information about one of these veterans, e-mail the treasurer's office at DanRutherford@treasurer.state.il.us

Compiled by Dennis Robaugh. 

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