All thanks to a state law designed to protect military medals.
WWII Veteran Claude Parris
Credit: Tennessee Department of Treasury

With the help of Tennessee officials, a Purple Heart medal earned by a World War II soldier more than 70 years ago has been returned to his family.

Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr.'s Office returned one of two military decorations earned by Claude Parris in WWII to his grandson, Freddie Parris. In 2008, Freddie's brother Charles placed the medal in a safe deposit box at a Chattanooga area bank and then forgot about it, family members told WRCB. The medal was reportedly found last fall and turned over to the state as unclaimed property.

Claude Parris Military Honors and Medals
Credit: Tennessee Department of Treasury

"I didn't know it was missing until I got the call so I just assumed my brother was the caretaker just like I was taking care of mine," Freddie told WRCB. "I guess it slipped through his fingers as they say."

According to his grandson, Claude served on the European front, fighting with American forces in both Paris and Luxembourg, where he lost part of his right leg in the Battle of the Bulge. Parris was awarded the Purple Heart, one of the nation's most significant military honors, for his service.

"He didn't talk much about it, but once in a while he would tell me stuff and realized all they went through," recalled Freddie. "All I heard him say was you don't even know you're hurt because your adrenaline is going and you're thinking about living and still trying to shoot the enemy."

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This is the first military medal returned by the Tennessee Department of Treasury Division of Unclaimed Property since a state law designed to protect military medals for veterans was passed in May 2011.

Freddie Parris Gets Grandfather's Purple Heart Back
Credit: Tennessee Department of Treasury

"Treasury works every day to protect the financial lives of Tennesseans," Lillard, Jr. said in a statement. "A moment like this takes all the time, dedication, and efforts of the Tennessee Treasury to a personal level, showcasing exactly what we work for every day."