Local veteran’s medals, flag returned to family
Editor’s note - the family of the soldier in the story has asked the soldier’s name or the family’s name not be released.
Thanks to some detective work by some local veterans, one of the last remaining symbols of a soldier’s life has been returned to the soldier’s family.
The search began when a local business had purchased a storage unit in Cedar Rapids and discovered a display box containing a folded flag and military medals, as well as the soldier’s name on a plaque. The case was traditionally a display for the family of a soldier who was deceased. The business contacted American Legion Post No. 29 to see if the family of the soldier could be found so the case could be returned.
“Normally what you find in a display box is just a flag,” American Legion member Lonny Milligan said. “It is a casket flag that is presented to a family at a military funeral.”
He said Legion member Jim Peterson had told him the business had contacted to Legion to have a look at the medals. Peterson and Milligan went to the business and recovered the case. Based on the medals, they determined the soldier was in Operations Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had been deployed twice. One ribbon Milligan recognized was the Good Conduct Medal.
Milligan said the case was about 30 inches by 30 inches. Inside was the flag, ribbons, medals, insignia, and collar brass. The case included the name. The two veterans agreed to try to locate the family of the serviceman, saying if they couldn’t the case would be displayed in the Washington County Military Historical Museum.
After getting home, Milligan had contacted the military funeral honor guard unit of the National Guard in Cedar Rapids. The unit travels to help with military funerals. After being told the information may take a few days, the unit called back two hours later to say the family had been identified.
Milligan had only hung up from talking to the unit, when the soldier’s father called to inquire about the case.
“He was a little puzzled about how I had the case,” Milligan said. “When you get all these phone calls soliciting things and you never know what information to give out and you wonder if it is a hoax. Finally I told him how I had obtained it.”
The father had asked for the case back. Milligan agreed and on Tuesday the father and step-mother drove to Washington. Milligan presented the case to him.
“When I gave the father the case and we were talking, he was telling me about his son,” Milligan said. “We both got a little choked up. He brought a picture along of the boy and told me that was who all this belonged to.”
Milligan said the American Legion is happy to help when military decorations are discovered and the owner hopes to return it to the solder’s family.