EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — Deceased veteran Willie Riley was awarded a Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars for his bravery on the battlefield in 1968, but his family lost the medal 20 years ago. After decades of searching for it, the medal finally made its way back to Riley’s loved ones, KMOV reports.
The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office told KMOV the medal was found inside his late sister’s safety deposit box. On Monday morning, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs will present the recovered award to Riley’s family at the East St. Louis City Hall.
Riley’s brother-in-law, Tommie Turner is a fellow veteran and will accept the Purple Heart on Riley’s behalf. Turner said his late wife was given the award by Riley for safe keeping, but the family somehow forgot about it.
Riley’s widow Lori was brought to tears when the medal was found. She said Riley would be happy to know his medal is back with his family.
“That’s one of the things he wanted before he died and I can’t believe it was found, incredible,” she told KMOV.