A local state senator and representatives from the Tennessee Treasury Department were in East Ridge on Thursday promoting a new state law intended to safeguard unclaimed military medals.
The law requires bank officials to send unclaimed military medals from safety deposit boxes to the Treasury rather than auction them with the remaining contents, as was the past practice.
State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said he had read of a similar problem in Missouri, where the state legislature enacted a similar law and said he contacted state Treasurer David Lillard to see if the law would help here.
"Veterans' medals are precious items that should never be sold or auctioned," Berke said.
Lillard said his department's unclaimed property division holds the proceeds from auctions and now will care for the medals until their owners or owners' families can claim them.
"[Medals] hold a tremendous sentimental value for those who earned them and those who loved them," Lillard said.
The law allows for medals to be displayed at museums or Treasury-controlled sites to help find their owners, he said.
The law has been in effect since July, and banks make an annual shipment of items to the Treasury in May, so Lillard said the department will know the quantity of unclaimed medals then.
Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Many-Bears Grinder, herself a veteran, said, "The medals that members of the armed services earn tell a story."
With more than 500,000 veterans in Tennessee, she said, "we can show our gratitude in our words, actions and in our laws."