Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. returned a missing Purple Heart medal earned more than 70 years ago to a soldier's family today due to the efforts of the Tennessee Department of Treasury Division of Unclaimed Property. Joining Treasurer Lillard were First Volunteer Bank executives Patti Steele, Judy Cartwright, and Todd Stancil, and Tennessee Bankers Association President & CEO Colin Barrett, along with Chattanooga area legislators Senator Bo Watson, Senator Todd Gardenhire, Representative Mike Carter, Representative Marc Gravitt, and Representative Patsy Hazelwood. Treasury's Division of Unclaimed Property uses a variety of outreach methods to locate owners of unclaimed property and was able to connect with the Purple Heart recipient's grandsons with help from local media.
The Purple Heart was one of two military decorations earned by Claude Parris for his service in World War II. According to his grandson, Mr. Parris 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, Parris 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 location of First Volunteer Bank, and the Tennessee Department of Treasury's Division of Unclaimed Property worked to reconnect Mr. Parris's family with this historic and invaluable medal.
"Treasury works every day to protect the financial lives of Tennesseans," said State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. "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."
Treasurer Lillard presented the Purple Heart to Mr. Claude Parris's grandson, Freddie Parris, on Friday morning in the downtown Chattanooga branch of First Volunteer Bank, where the abandoned safe deposit box was discovered.
Freddie Parris accepted the medal on behalf of his brother, Charles Parris, saying "I appreciate the state laws that protect our veterans. Even though they are gone, they should not be forgotten."
"Our goal is always to take the best care of our customers here at First Volunteer Bank. When we opened up that box and found the Purple Heart, we wanted so much to find the owner, but eventually had to turn it over to Unclaimed Property. It is so rewarding now to see the family reunited with this medal," said Judy Cartwright of First Volunteer Bank.
Tennessee Treasury's Division of Unclaimed Property helped connect Mr. Parris's family with the Purple Heart through concentrated outreach efforts enabled by a law passed by the General Assembly in May of 2011, which was designed to protect military medals for veterans. 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. Treasury's Division of Unclaimed Property is responsible for their safekeeping.
"This is a great day for all of Tennessee," Senator Gardenhire said, "Because it shows that the system works. That is what my colleagues and I in the General Assembly strive for every day."
"I was proud to vote for the legislation in 2011 to protect these military medals," said Senator Bo Watson, "and I am honored to be here today as Mr. Parris' family is reunited with his Purple Heart. I am grateful to see the efforts of our legislation come to its intended fruition in such a meaningful way."
This is the first military medal returned by the Tennessee Department of Treasury Division of Unclaimed Property since the law went into effect. Five members of the Tennessee General Assembly were part of Friday's presentation in Chattanooga.
"As a veteran myself, it is a great honor to be here for this presentation to the Parris family," Representative Gravitt said. "Recipients of this award need to be recognized for their sacrifice and those of their family."
"I am excited to see this valuable piece of their history reunited with the Parris family," Representative Carter said. "The Tennessee Treasury Department's Division of Unclaimed Property is one of the State's important consumer protection programs, working hard to return missing money and these important military medals to their rightful owners."