Goodwill donations lead to medal mysteries

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – At Goodwill Industries Arkansas, employees sometimes come across military items dating back to World War I and World War II. Instead of putting them on the shelf , they set them aside hoping to return them to family members.

As Goodwill employees sift through boxes and boxes of donations, sometimes they run across an item that stops them in their tracks.

“Wow, this might be something. Oh my gosh what do I have in my hand,” Goodwill Jewelry Sorter Todd Ray said.

For Ray, each day is like a treasure hunt. Instead of gold, his greatest finds are medals and pins of those who served the red, white and blue.

“These people sacrificed a part of their lives or their whole life in defense of our country,” Ray said.

He is a history major and imagine his excitement when he came across a ring dating back to WWII.

“The ring is from 1943 it’s what we call a trench ring,” Ray said.

It’s engraved by hand by a soldier in the trenches.

“Just to kind of commemorate them being there. This particular one is from Tunisia,” Ray said.

That wasn’t even the oldest trinket in the box. He also found a victory medal from WWI.

“This is over 100 years old. Finding the stuff, it’s like touching a piece of history,” Ray said.

Sometimes these finds come with clues to who they originally belonged to, others leave no trace.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t have a name, didn’t have any initials,” Ray said.

That’s where ECOM Supervisor Alisha Williams comes in.

“Hearing their actual stories on what all these items have been through, where it’s come from, who all it’s been how old it is,” Williams said.

She helps with the Google search and will even take pictures for social media.

“They’re our greatest tool,” Williams said.

They keep these symbols of service to try and track down the rightful owner.

“This is their blood, sweat and tears that they fought and sacrificed for. They deserve to have that back,” Ray said.

If you know who the ring or medal could belong to contact Goodwill Industries of Arkansas. After an extensive search, if they still can’t find the owner, they will donate the items to museums.

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