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Bill Would Preserve Veterans' Medals

September 02, 2000|ROB O'NEIL

Rep. Brad Sherman said Friday he plans to co-sponsor a bill that would keep unclaimed military decorations or those involved in bankruptcy proceedings from automatically going to auction.

Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) will announce his Military Decoration Preservation Act on Tuesday at the Reseda American Legion Post No. 308, which hosts meetings for four of the Valley's 10 American Legion posts.

When service veterans die, their decorations are sometimes left unclaimed in safety deposit boxes and are eventually auctioned off.

The medals of veterans who declare bankruptcy face similar disposition, Sherman said.

"Financial institutions and other creditors should not be allowed to take from our veterans these symbols of heroism and bravery," he said. "We have an obligation to protect them from being demeaned."

If enacted, the bill will require that such decorations be returned to and preserved by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, or given to the National Guard in states that have established programs to preserve them.

Of the 15 million veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, an estimated 1,000 die each day, veterans groups say. Virtually all surviving World War II vets are now in their late 70s or older.

Charles Leach, 80, of Reseda, who served with the Marines during the war's Solomon Islands campaign, called the loss of a decoration "the ultimate insult."

"Here a guy goes out and defends his country, and gets in a position where his medals end up being sold," Leach said. "That's the most disgraceful thing I ever heard of."

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