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Tennessee Unclaimed Property returns WWII Military Medals to family
Shelli King

Tennessee Unclaimed Property returns WWII Military Medals to family

Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. returned missing military medals to the Foster family at the Tennessee State Capitol

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. returned four missing WWII military medals to the family of Joseph R. Foster.

The Tennessee Department of Treasury, Division of Unclaimed Property, was able to connect with the medal recipient’s daughter, Melisa Foster Washington, thanks to a Treasury social media campaign initially launched around Veterans’ Day in 2021. [video]

The late Joseph R. Foster served in the U.S. Army in Germany in WWII as part of the Rhineland Campaign. For his service, he was awarded four military medals: The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, The Army of Occupation Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

Mr. Foster, who had spoken proudly of his service to his children, stored the medals in a safe-deposit box in a Nashville area bank. After his death in 2010, the medals were found in the abandoned safe-deposit box. Thanks to the Tennessee law protecting all military decorations, the bank turned the medals over to Unclaimed Property. 

“The returning of military medals is very special because it’s our way as a state and a population to recognize the service and sacrifice of veterans who have served our country and protected our freedom,” Treasurer Lillard said. “You can’t put a price on that.” [video]

Treasurer Lillard presented the medals to Mrs. Washington and her brother, David Foster, at the Tennessee State Capitol. Joining Treasurer Lillard were Retired Tennessee National Guard MG Tommy H. Baker, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans’ Services, and Colonel Jason Glass, Assistant Adjutant General for the Tennessee Air National Guard. [video]

“I was a teenager when my dad passed. So, I didn’t get a lot of time with him,” said Melisa Foster Washington. “I never thought this moment would come where I would have some type of memorabilia from his service. Having these medals returned is having a piece of my dad and a piece of his story. Honestly, this just means the world to me.” [video]

Inspired by her father’s service, Mrs. Washington joined the Army National Guard, where she has proudly served for 13 years.

“The things that he told me about the war, his service there, and what he went through to get there always inspired everyone in our family,” said David Foster. “It’s a great honor to get these medals and I certainly appreciate it very much.” [video]

The Division of Unclaimed Property helped connect Mr. Foster’s family to the medals through the State Treasury’s concentrated social media outreach efforts enabled by a law passed by the General Assembly in May 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.

“We are so proud that the state has put mechanisms in place that allowed this to happen,” Commissioner Baker said. “It’s a culmination, a reuniting of everything that they had heard as young children and now they have the medals he earned through his service.” [video]

“It’s amazing the power of the internet today and that we were able to reconnect David and Melisa with their father’s medals,” said Colonel Jason Glass. “Reuniting these awards with the children, it means something special. It brings a piece of their father back to them.” [video]

About the Tennessee Treasury Unclaimed Property Division:

Unclaimed property is money that has been turned over to the State by businesses and organizations that cannot locate the rightful owners. Every year, millions of missing dollars are turned over, and the Tennessee Treasury Department works to get that money back to the rightful owners. In Tennessee, there is currently $1.2 billion in unclaimed property still waiting to be returned.

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Addtional photos can be obtained with courtesy by contacting Cal.Baxter@tn.gov

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