State Treasurer Launches Program to Return Purple Heart Medals to Vets or Their Families

By Jeremy Coumbes on November 3, 2021 at 3:34pm

The State Treasurer is working to return a number of Purple Heart awards to their rightful owners.

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs announced the launch of Operation Purple Heart this week, an effort to return 11 such awards to the veterans or their families.

Frerichs says the military honors were submitted to the State Treasurer’s Office for safekeeping and return as part of the Unclaimed Property program, also known as I-Cash.

He says it is the hope of his office that attention to the upcoming Veterans Day celebrations and tributes will spark a memory or provoke a memory in someone so each medal can be returned.

Frerichs says the medals personify honor, sacrifice, and duty, and belong in the care of families and rather than hidden in his office’s cold basement vault.

According to the announcement, military medals are some of the most difficult items to return because the name under which the honor was submitted as unclaimed property might not correspond to the name of the honoree.

Frerichs says the task is further hampered because neither the Armed Forces nor the federal government maintains a comprehensive list of awardees. It is also possible that the military honor under which a medal was submitted is not related to the awardee.

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office is releasing a limited amount of information that the owners or their relatives may recognize in an effort to find the rightful owners.

Frerichs says a thorough vetting of inquires will occur once an electronic claim is made at

Last names and last known cities connected to the family that rented the safe deposit box containing the Purple Heart medal:

Cawthon, Received, Nov. 1, 1992, Portland, Oregon

Wilson, Received, Nov. 13, 1995, Chicago

Burns, Received, Nov. 5, 1997, Homewood

Moore, Received, Oct. 17, 2001, Peoria

Smith, Received, Nov. 18, 2002, Oak Park

Gorski, Received, Oct. 30, 2003, Darien

Tuttle, Received, Oct. 25, 2018, Decatur

Alexander, Received, Oct. 26, 2018, Channahon

Isbell or Shayer, Received, Oct. 31, 2018, Chicago

Steward or VanHasselaere, Received, Oct. 31, 2018, Round Lake

Wiest, Received, Oct. 23, 2019, O’Fallon