A piece of history was returned to its rightful owners Friday morning when members of the Tennessee Department of Treasury handed over a Purple Heart medal to the original recipient's family.
Representatives from the treasury department's division of unclaimed property presented the medal at First Volunteer Bank on the 700 block of Broad Street to Freddie Parris, the grandson of Claude Parris, who was awarded the medal for his sacrifices during combat in World War II. Claude Parris died in Lafayette, Ga., in 1972 and was buried in Chattooga County.
"About 70 years ago, Mr. Claude Parris was in Europe on the front lines of WWII fighting with our American armed forces," said Tennessee State Treasurer David Lillard Jr.
"He served in one of the most significant and deadly moments of the war — the Battle of the Bulge — where he tragically lost the lower part of his right leg. It was because of his brave actions and sacrifices that Mr. Parris was awarded one of our nation's most significant military honors: the Purple Heart."
Lillard said the medal was stored in a First Volunteer safe deposit box for years before the box was eventually abandoned and the medal turned over to the state's treasury department, which contacted the Parris family just months ago.
Claude Parris' grandson, Freddie Parris, received the medal and gave thanks to the bank and state employees who contacted him.
"My grandfather received two Purple Hearts — one outside of Paris and one at the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg — and I appreciate the state laws that protect our veterans," he said "Even though they're gone, they should not be forgotten.
"This is preserving history — the legacy of this veteran can continue to be handed down."
Sen. Todd Gardenhire also attended Friday's event and commended both First Volunteer Bank and the Tennessee Department of Treasury for the work done in returning the medal to the Parris family.
"It speaks well of this institution and employees that found such an icon of an item and to turn it over and to do the right thing, I think that speaks volumes of their honesty and the way they do business," he said. "This is a great day for all of Tennessee because it shows that the system works."
Lillard said there's still more than $31 million in unclaimed property in Hamilton County.
"In Hamilton County alone in fiscal year 2017, we returned $1.9 million of unclaimed property to Hamilton Countians, so we're proud of that," Lillard said. "The division of unclaimed property strives to go above and beyond to better the financial lives of all Tennesseans."
He encouraged residents to visit the Tennessee treasury department's website — treasury.tn.gov/ — to search for unclaimed property.