Purple Heart, lost items go to late veteran's family

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ST. LOUIS (WAND) – An unclaimed Purple Heart medal is now with the family of the man who earned it.

Willie Riley earned the Purple Heart for his service in the Vietnam War. He served in active duty from 1967 to 1969 and has since died. The medal went to Tommie Turner, who was married to Riley’s sister before her death. Riley had requested the Purple Heart go to her safe deposit box. After the sister died, the medal ended up in State Treasurer Michael Frerichs’ office as unclaimed property.

Frerichs presented the Purple Heart to Tommie Turner at a ceremony in the East St. Louis City Hall. Turner also claimed a savings bond, jewelry and military transfer papers that belonged to his brother-in-law.

“As Veteran’s Day approaches, returning this Purple Heart is an incredible way to honor Willie G. Riley and his family for his service and sacrifice to this country,” Frerichs said. “We could not be prouder to have played a role in this reunion.”

Turner says he wants the Purple Heart to go to Riley’s widow, who currently lives in New York.

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office says it still has over 100 unclaimed military medals on file. People can visit the I-Cash website to check a database of lost bank accounts, insurance policies, and other forgotten items for free. Lost items are considered unclaimed and go to the office after it tries to find owners for at least five years.

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