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Daughter of Missouri veteran reunited with father's Bronze Star decades after Vietnam War

Posted at 7:49 PM, Jan 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-16 00:14:42-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kelley Maddox's memories of her father's time in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War are still vivid several decades later.

“He was affected by his time in Vietnam,” Maddox said. “So many people sacrificed their lives, and for those that made it back, when they got back they weren’t treated as heroes.”

Her father, Rick Dovell, was born in Missouri and grew up on a farm.

He was a hard worker and also a soldier — a distant part of his life that his daughter wishes she knew more about.

“He was definitely in a combat zone,” she said. “He was very proud of his time there, I think, as he got older, but he definitely didn’t talk about it enough.”

Dovell spent time at the American Legion, where Maddox says he would reveal glimpses about his service.

When Dovell passed away in 2017, his daughter knew he had unclaimed property at the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office but had no idea what it was.

An announcement of unclaimed property from the office caught the attention of KSHB 41 I-Team producer Lisa McCormick, who worked to connect the dots.

“It wasn’t until Lisa told me that it was an actual medal that I knew that that’s what it was,” Maddox said.

She had no idea that her father had even earned a Bronze Star, which requires in part "heroic or meritorious achievement or service."

RELATED | Requirements to earn a Bronze Star

“It was definitely a nice surprise for sure,” she said.

Dovell’s Bronze Star was one of more than 100 military medals sitting in the vault room at the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office.

It’s a trove of service, sacrifice and memories unclaimed.

Purple Hearts. Medals from World War I and World War II. A diary believed to be from a Civil War soldier describing President Abraham Lincoln coming to see the troops.

In December, then-State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick took KSHB 41 News Anchor Lindsay Shively into the vault room where those medals and all the other unclaimed property is kept. It's a collection that keeps growing.

Fitzpatrick said military medals, insignia and other property that lands in the vault room come from safe deposit boxes left behind.

Normally officials auction off what doesn't get claimed after about five years. Even at auctions, some of the items never find a new home.

Getting her father’s Bronze Star, Maddox wrote back to the Treasurer’s Office, in part, "… My father’s sacrifice to the United States being drafted in his youth was not in vain…”

“I mean, it’s impactful,” she said. “Twenty-two years old, not being given a choice. That’s tough. I can’t imagine.”

Now she hopes to find out more about why he earned that Bronze Star in the first place.

“I think he’d be happy,” Maddox said when asked what her father would think, knowing she has his Bronze Star. “I think that he would have told the story of it for sure. But I’m certain that he’s happy that it’s finally where it needs to be. “

Maddox says the recovered medal has sparked conversations with her children about their grandfather and his military service.

You can find the section specifically for military unclaimed property on the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office website and contact them if you believe you can claim something.