A missing Purple Heart medal earned more than 70 years ago was returned to the family of a World War II soldier on Friday, with the help of Tennessee officials.
Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr.'s Office said in a news release the Purple Heart was one of the two military decorations earned by Claude Parris for his service in World War II.
In 2008, a family member placed the medal in a safe deposit box at a bank in the Chattanooga area – and then forgot about it, family members said, according to WRCB. The medal was found last fall and was turned over to the state as unclaimed property.
“Treasury works every day to protect the financial lives of Tennesseans,” State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. said in a statement. “A moment like this takes all the time, dedication, and efforts of the Tennessee Treasury to a personal level, showcasing exactly what we work for every day.”
According to his grandson, Parris served on the European front during the war, fighting with American forces in Paris and Luxembourg, where he lost part of his right leg in the Battle of the Bulge. He was rewarded with a Purple Heart medal in the 1940s.
The reunion was made possible due to a state law passed in May 2011 designed to protect military medals for veterans. The Tennessee 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, which the Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property is then responsible for their safekeeping.
The reunion on Friday was the first military medal returned by the Tennessee Department of Treasury Division of Unclaimed Property since the law went into effect.
"I appreciate the state laws that protect our veterans," Parris' grandson, Freddie, said at the ceremony on Friday. "Even though they are gone, they should not be forgotten."