State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. returns the Purple Heart to its rightful owner, Freddie Parris. (Photo: Staff)

The Tennessee Department of Treasury recently returned a Purple Heart to its rightful owner after it wound up with state officials at the Division of Unclaimed Property.

Though the Division of Unclaimed Property mostly deals with money from unclaimed customer refunds and uncashed payroll checks, a new law also allows the division to return lost war medals to recipients’ families.

The Purple Heart came to this government division after First Volunteer Bank employees found the war medal in an abandoned lockbox. When they were unable to contact the original owner of the lockbox, the bank turned the Purple Heart over to the government.

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After some time, the Division of Unclaimed Property found the rightful owner’s contact information and let them know they had the lost medal.

When Freddie Parris picked up the phone, he said he was surprised. He thought the Purple Heart was still in his brother’s lockbox.

“I thought my brother still had it,” Parris said. “I didn’t even realize [it was gone].”

After Parris provided proof that the Purple Heart belonged to his grandfather, Claude Parris, the government returned the medal.

Claude Parris was awarded the Purple Heart after losing part of his leg in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. This medal is one of two he received for his service.

Parris said he’s happy to have the medal back so that the family can continue to pass it down to future generations.

“[I hope it will let my family] know that all of the nice things that we have here in the states didn’t come freely,” Parris said. “You have to work for it and protect it.”

Local political leaders were also happy to see that the new law is already working for Tennessee citizens.

“It shows that the system works,” state Sen. Todd Gardenhire said.

State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. said that the Division of Unclaimed Property is still holding $31 million in unclaimed money for Hamilton County alone. Citizens who would like to see if any of this money is theirs should search for their name here.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah.

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