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Front Page - Friday, January 26, 2018

State treasurer returns Purple Heart to family

Tennessee State Treasurer David Lillard, Jr. was able to return a missing Purple Heart medal earned more than 70 years ago to a soldier’s family in Chattanooga due to the efforts of the Tennessee Department of Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property.

The Purple Heart was one of two military decorations earned by Claude Parris for his service in World War II. According to his grandson, Freddie Parris, Claude served on the European front, fighting with American forces in both Paris and Luxembourg, where he tragically lost part of his right leg in the Battle of the Bulge.

For his service, Claude was awarded one of the nation’s most significant military honors – the Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart was found in an abandoned safe deposit box in a Chattanooga-area First Volunteer Bank, and the Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property worked to reconnect Claude’s family with the historic and invaluable medal.

“The Treasury works every day to protect the financial lives of Tennesseans,” Lillard said. “A moment like this takes the time, dedication and efforts of the Tennessee Treasury to a personal level, showcasing exactly what we work for every day.”

Lillard presented the Purple Heart to Freddie in the downtown Chattanooga branch of First Volunteer Bank, where the abandoned safe deposit box was discovered.

“I appreciate the state laws that protect our veterans. Even though they’re gone, they should not be forgotten,” Freddie Parris said after accepting the medal.

“Our goal is to always take the best care of our customers,” said Judy Cartwright of First Volunteer Bank. “When we opened the box and found the Purple Heart, we wanted to find the owner, but eventually had to turn it over to Unclaimed Property. Seeing the family reunited with this medal is very rewarding.”

The Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property helped connect Parris’ family with the Purple Heart through concentrated outreach efforts enabled by a law, passed by the General Assembly in 2011, designed to protect military medals for veterans.

The law identifies a military medal as any decoration or award that might be presented or awarded to a member of a unit of the Armed Forces or National Guard.

The Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property is responsible for their safekeeping.

Joining Lillard were First Volunteer Bank executives Patti Steele, Judy Cartwright and Todd Stancil, Tennessee Bankers Association President and CEO Colin Barrett and Chattanooga area legislators Sen. Bo Watson, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, Rep. Mike Carter, Rep. Marc Gravitt and Rep. Patsy Hazelwood.

“This is a great day for all of Tennessee,” Gardenhire said. “It shows that the system works.”

“I was proud to vote for the legislation in 2011 to protect these military medals,” said Watson, “and I’m honored to be here today as Mr. Parris’ family is reunited with his Purple Heart. I’m grateful to see the efforts of our legislation come to its intended fruition in a meaningful way.”

This is the first military medal returned by the Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property since the law went into effect.

“As a veteran, it’s a great honor to be here for this presentation to the Parris family,” Gravitt said. “Recipients of this award need to be recognized for their sacrifice and those of their family.”

“I’m excited to see this valuable piece of history reunited with the Parris family,” Carter said.

“The Treasury’s Division of Unclaimed Property is one of the state’s most important consumer protection programs.”

Source: Tennessee Department of Treasury Division of Unclaimed Property