Illinois' Operation Purple Heart seeks to return medals to veterans’ families

In a major initiative to honor veterans this Memorial Day weekend, the Illinois State Treasurer's office is working to return Purple Heart medals to their rightful owners through "Operation Purple Heart."

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who oversees the state’s unclaimed property program, announced the effort to generate interest and help reunite the medals with their families. The office currently has 12 Purple Heart medals in its possession, each found in abandoned safe deposit boxes that had not been accessed in several years.

Military medals are among the most challenging items to return due to the lack of a comprehensive list of awardees and their contact information maintained by the armed forces or the federal government.

"I returned a Purple Heart to the children of a deceased veteran, and the three sisters told me how important that was for them and how proud their father would be that they were collecting his medal," Frerichs said. "Last August, I got to be with the daughter of a deceased Marine, and she said there weren’t words to describe the feeling she had getting that medal back into her family."

To assist in the effort, the public is encouraged to visit the website, which provides a complete list of the names on the medals and all known information about them. The website asks anyone who recognizes a name to reach out and help return these honors to the veterans or their families.