If you’ve lost your Military decorations don’t panic! Whether it was during a move, through the mail, or misplaced by a family member, there is still a chance you can find your lost item.
The VetFriends team sat down with James May, former Chaplain (CPT) for the US Army and current regional manager of the Pennsylvania State Treasury, to discuss where to start with Veterans seeking to retrieve missing Military decorations.
We hope you enjoy the interview and can share the info with anyone you know who might be curious and go check for service members they’ve known:
For seven years, I had the honor of serving as a chaplain in the United States Army. During my final three years on active duty, I had the very unique privilege of serving in Iraq, with the soldiers on the front lines; at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with soldiers who have been injured; and at Arlington National Cemetery for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. My time as a chaplain in the military allowed me to witness, firsthand, the full spectrum of sacrifice that soldiers and their families are willing to make to defend our freedom.
Whether they are called to serve stateside or in a combat zone, the men and women who put on the uniform of our nation’s military deserve our profound gratitude and appreciation. We can never say thank you enough for all they have given. But one small token of our nation’s gratitude for military service is the presentation of military ribbons, medals, coins, or other decorations. While they can never fully convey our appreciation, these are tangible ways for us to say thank you to a service member, and a way for a service member to commemorate their time serving our country.
Common Ways Military Decorations Get Lost
I left the military 12 years ago, and today I serve as a regional public relations manager for the Pennsylvania State Treasury. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is that I get to work with our unclaimed property bureau to return military decorations to veterans and their families.
Right now, the Pennsylvania State Treasury has nearly 700 military decorations that are classified as unclaimed. These typically come to us from a local bank, where someone had been keeping them in a safe deposit box. However, due to something as simple as a clerical error in an address, or a person moving without updating their records, the bank is unable to locate the owner.
Other times, the original owner may pass away, and the ownership of the box is passed to a spouse. Later, the spouse may also die and the surviving heirs may be unaware of the box. So, it goes unclaimed.
💡Military decorations aren’t the only things that get lost after you retire from the service. Reconnect with your old Military buddies here.
In Pennsylvania, a bank will try to contact the owner of a box for at least three years before it is sent to the Bureau of Unclaimed Property at the Pennsylvania State Treasury. Once we receive it at the Treasury, it is stored in a vault until we are able to contact the original owner or the legal heirs. Whenever our team is able to track down an owner or their rightful heirs and we return the decorations we find that it is often an extremely emotional and meaningful time for the recipient. Service members are reunited with medals that they thought were long gone, or family members learn of honors they never knew had been given to a loved one.
How to Find Your Lost Military Decorations
Our new State Treasurer, Stacy Garrity is a retired Army Colonel with more than 30 years of military service. She understands the sacrifice that has been made by the American soldier because she has seen it firsthand. As such, she has made it a top priority for us to return these medals to their rightful owners.
While each state handles the specifics of unclaimed military decorations differently, Pennsylvania is set up so that a simple search on our Treasury website www.PATreasury.gov will list all the current medals and the last known piece of information that was provided before it came to our care.
PA Unclaimed Property Vault
In other states, the medals may be handled through different state agencies, but the ultimate goal is to return these items to their rightful owners.
To find out how your specific state handles the return of military decorations, you can look at the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ website, www.unclaimed.org.
Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices to defend and protect our freedom. We owe each one of them a debt of gratitude for their service to our nation. By working together, we can ensure that these tokens of appreciation are returned to their rightful owners – our veterans or their families!