Tennessee works to get abandoned wartime medals to whom they belong

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The state of Tennessee is working to put wartime medals and other military declarations in the hands of the veterans who earned them or their surviving family members’.

Since 2011, the Department of Treasury has taken and secured military medals as part of its unclaimed property division.

The law identifies a military medal as any decoration or award that may be presented or awarded to a member of a unit of the armed forces or National Guard.

“You can’t put a value on this memento,” spokeswoman Shelli King said. “These are mementos of bravery.”

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

They have around 30 medals, including Purple Hearts, World War II medals and dog tags found in abandoned safe deposit boxes in Tennessee banks.

The banks must wait for at least two years of a person not paying for the safe deposit box before they can drill them to get the contents.

Banks can then auction off the items inside and use the proceeds to pay any owed fees, but military medals are the exception and cannot be auctioned. Instead, they are turned over to the Department of Treasury.

“It could be because there was a wrong address or could be a misspelling of their name,” King said. “The information was wrong when it was given, which is why it didn’t go back in the first place.”

King continued, “The banks would have kept it for a few years trying to find the rightful owner before turning it over to the department of treasury.”

Finding the rightful owner or their surviving family members can be difficult because the last known address is not always accurate, or in some cases, is not available.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

News 2 went to the last known address of a man who has four medals at the department of the treasury. No one came to the door.

In Tennessee, you can see if you or a loved one has unclaimed property by going to ClaimItTn.gov.

If it says you have “safe deposit box contents,” then it is likely military medals.

Also, the department suggests checking your name with common misspellings to see if anything comes up.

“On average we have six million pieces of property waiting to be returned,” King said. “Any piece of property that’s been turned over since the beginning of the division is on our website at http://www.ClaimItTn.gov.

The department has around $789 million in unclaimed property that needs to be returned.

They had a record breaking year for the last fiscal year and processed around 41,000 claims.

The department also plans to use social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to publish the names of veterans with medals at the department.

In the case of a deceased owner, the department will need additional documentation to help prove ownership such as a certified death certificate of the original owner or certified birth certificate of the heir, among other documents.