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Korean War mementos long thought lost returned to veteran’s family in Statesville

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 3:56 PM EST
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STATESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - An emotional day for a Statesville family, reunited today with the artifacts of their late father’s time in the Army during the Korean War. A Statesville based organization called Precious Metals has a mission of reuniting medals and other service items, long thought lost, with the family of the veteran, and on Thursday they made another presentation.

The items were in a storage unit owned by another family member of Freckless “Freck” Willie Gibbs, who was wounded while serving in the 24th Infantry of the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Gibbs passed away in 2009. All of the records of the storage unit were lost and the veteran’s children had no idea what happened to the items until someone won an auction on the storage unit.

The storage unit contained a box full of Korean War memorabilia. There were numerous service combat medals, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and other personal property. The items ended up languishing in the attic of that home for some time. After she learned about this new nonprofit, the owner turned Mr. Gibbs’ property over to Precious Medals. The nonprofit then tracked down relatives and arranged for the dignified transfer on November 11, 2021.

“Within 10 minutes of getting the box my husband knew the family that was involved,” said Kimberly Siegrist of Precious Medals. Precious Medals is a new nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of PTSD and other challenges that U.S. military personnel face after returning to civilian life.

Kimberly and husband Roger decided to return the items to the Gibbs’ family during a surprise presentation. Carmen Townes is Gibb’s daughter, Bryon Turman is his son…they thought they were just coming to have tea…but there was a lot more to it than that.

“We’re very excited to surprise them,” Siegrist said. “By all means, Freck, his life mattered, his life mattered in the moment when he was in the Korean War but his life mattered after the war a great deal too.”

The presentations were made at the historic Steele house in Statesville. It with a veterans motorcycle group that picked up the box containing Freck’s hat and medals and presented them to his children.

“The hat he wore every day…unless he was playing golf,” Gibbs’ son said.

Then more presentations began featuring the items found in the box in the storage unit. It was a very emotional time for Carmen and Bryon.

“We grew up with this stuff and to be lost and come back it was just very emotional,” Townes said.

92-year-old Korean War veteran John Schafer presented Freck’s jacket to the family, Freck’s fellow Masons presented an apron and a certificate. There were pictures and books that had belonged to Freck, including the book ‘Black Solider, White Army’ that chronicled the unit in which Freck served.

And all of these things made their way back to Freck’s family, because of the efforts of Kimberly, Roger, and someone who put a storage unit and recognized a treasure they knew they shouldn’t keep.

“For somebody out of the kindness of their heart, to buy the storage unit, then make sure the stuff got back to use,” Turman said. “It goes to show the kind of community we have in Statesville, people really do look out for each other.”

The Siegrists also use Precious Medals to raise awareness of PTSD with veterans. Freck Gibbs volunteered his time after the war to helping veterans dealing with the issue, volunteering his time with a peer support group working at the VA Medical Center in Salisbury.

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