Mesa seeks owner of seized service medals - East Valley Tribune: Home

Mesa seeks owner of seized service medals

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Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 5:01 pm | Updated: 1:20 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Stored in a nondescript warehouse building are symbols of an unknown soldier or soldiers - a cache of medals that were seized by police and later landed in Mesa's warehouse for unclaimed property.

The hodgepodge of medals, lightly dusted and ranging from World War II to the Vietnam War, are being safely kept at the city's materials and surplus warehouse. The department typically sells off items garnered through either police seizure or abandonment by owner.

Sherri Power, a coordinator at the surplus warehouse, said the medals are not for sale.

The only question on the minds of many Mesa officials and veteran groups is how the medals can be reunited with the unknown war hero or heroes.

"Most items that come to the warehouse are for sale, but we do not want to sell the medals," Power said. "We want to give them back to the recipient or the family of the World War II veteran who earned these medals."

She said the city has a waiting period for owners of lost, stolen or confiscated items to claim their goods, after which the items are sent to the warehouse and sold.

The medals were confiscated last spring, said city spokesman Kevin Christopher. He did not give details about the police incident other than saying that the items were taken in April. He said he did not know whether the medals were stolen, or the identity of the owner.

It is not known whether the medals all belonged to one person, although local veterans' groups said it is possible that they could have been earned by one person.

The items include a World War II Victory Medal, Legion of Merit Medal, a Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart and a Southeast Asia Service Medal.

"We were also able to determine that there is a Distinguished Service Cross," Christopher said.

"A couple of things we're not identifying," he said. "We're holding some information back so that family or friends who come forward can identify" the medals in greater detail.

Veterans said the medals represent invaluable service to country.

William "Doc" Brumme, club committee chairman of Mesa's VFW Post 1760, said he would salute anyone who earned a Distinguished Service Cross medal.

"It's the second-highest award after the Medal of Honor, which takes an act of Congress to get," said the 65-year-old Brumme, a Vietnam Veteran who worked as a combat medic in 1966-67.

He pointed out that the Southeast Asia Service Medal was also a big deal, but in a different way.

"It could have been a special-forces guy," said the retired Chicago policeman who once received the Vietnam Service Medal. "I received a Vietnam combat ribbon, but that person would have had to serve in some place like Cambodia after the war."

John Bodak of Chandler's VFW Post 7401 said he served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, from 1966-69.

The 66-year-old veteran said he had never heard of the Southeast Asia Service Medal, which meant it was rare among awards given to service members who fought during the Vietnam War.

Bodak deferred to the post's quartermaster, 65-year-old Jerry Weagant, a fellow Vietnam veteran. "He knows a lot more about different medals," he said.

Weagant said his post had nearly 500 members, and he couldn't say whether any of them had also received the award. "It's probably a covert operation medal of some kind - it's not a common one," he said.

Weagant, who described his role as quartermaster as the post's treasurer, administrator and de facto historian, said it would be easy enough to confirm the rightful owner once people come forward.

"All medals awarded are on the DD-214," he said of the military certificate that documents service.

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