On this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is unveiling an updated Operation Reunite list of names now that several military medals have been returned to veterans. Operation Reunite is the program that links veterans and their families with any unclaimed military medals, awards, and military artifacts that have been transferred to the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division. Rutherford launched Operation Reunite in 2011, shortly after taking office.
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.
“I don’t have many better duties as treasurer than to reunite a military medal with a veteran,” said Rutherford. “It is my goal to return each and every one of the medals and awards that belong to these veterans or their heirs.” The list of names is printed on the Operation Reunite brochure, which can be found at www.treasurer.il.gov.
“If anyone recognizes a name on the list, please let us know,” explained Rutherford. “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to the names of most of the medals, and perhaps even a last known address, enough time has passed that the address is no longer valid.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.” The email address for the Unclaimed Property Division is info@Icash.Illinois.gov.
The vault located beneath the Illinois State Capitol contains thousands of lost of forgotten valuables, including nearly 200 military artifacts, which includes medals, belonging to the men of women who have served our country. The valuable military awards span more than a century of American conflict, including one medal that dates back to the Spanish American War, circa 1898. Other items include service records, dog tags and commendations from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office came to be the caretaker of these military artifacts after they were lost or forgotten. Often, a veteran of the armed forces or a family member has stored these objects in a bank’s safe deposit box and forgotten about them over time. Banks eventually relinquish stewardship of the contents of these boxes to the treasurer's office. The treasurer then serves as the custodian for these items, storing and protecting them in the state vault under the Capitol until they may be reunited with whom they rightfully belong.