UPDATED 11/11/11 11:17 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Some of America’s heroes have been separated from the medals they earned by serving our country, and Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is on a mission to reunite them.

As state treasurer, Rutherford is the caretaker for unclaimed property, which includes un-cashed payroll checks, savings certificates, and gold coins that Rutherford says have a combined value of $1.5 billion.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

Some 200 war medals and ribbons are also among those items, he said.

“A war veteran or active military individual got a medal, and at some point in time, it wound in a lockbox in a financial institution – either the family members; grandpa’s Purple Heart,” Rutherford said. “So after five years, if there’s no activity with that lockbox, the financial institution has the obligation to turn it over to me.”

The Treasurer’s office is holding 15 Purple Hearts, as well five bronze stars, one silver star, a Navy cross, and a World War I service medal, among other medals and awards.

“The oldest one that we have in our possession was around the 1890s – the Spanish-American War,” he said.

Rutherford says veterans, military members, and family members who are missing medals and awards should go to this page on office’s Web site. A list of people with a connection to the unclaimed medals can be found at the site.

The office is also working with local veterans’ organizations to try to promote the fact that the medals can be returned to family members, Rutherford said.

Watch & Listen LIVE