NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Master Sergeant James Sanders experienced a lot serving in the United States Army.

“He didn’t talk about the soldier part of things,” said son Jai Sanders.

Jai only learned bits and pieces about his father’s 20-year military career.

“He would talk about waking up in a tent in Guam with lizards that were big and things along those lines,” he said.

But an important piece of his father was missing for quite some time.

Wednesday the State’s Department of Treasury held a special ceremony to reunite Jai with his father’s four military medals.

James was drafted into World War II in February 1942 where he primarily served as a quartermaster for the majority of his time in both the European Theater and Pacific Theater.

He later served in the Korean War along with doing several combat tours in Guam, Germany, Korea and the Mariana Islands.

He received seven medals during his military career but the four medals missing were the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

James Sanders’ military medals (Courtesy: WKRN)

James retired in October 1962 as a Master Sergeant and ROTC instructor for the Department of Military Science and Tactics at Virginia State University.

He later returned to Nashville where he worked as a clerk for the U.S. Postal Service in the Frist Center — the building that today houses the Frist Art Museum — for the remainder of his civilian career.

James passed away in 1996, leaving Jai in possession of the medals.

“[I] put the originals in a safe deposit box, and life happened and the bank closed and here we are today,” he said.

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For over 25 years, those medals were sitting at a Nashville bank that eventually closed, ending up in the hands of the treasury’s office.

“We are charged with attempting to find the families or heirs of that veteran,” said State Treasurer David Lillard.

Lillard says for eight years they searched but finally found Jai a few months ago who is still processing all of this.

“I was already proud of him so this doesn’t really change that, but it just brings up a lot of things that I hadn’t thought about in a while,” he said.

Though Master Sgt. James Sanders is no longer here, to Jai, these medals are just another reminder of everything his father endured and sacrificed.

“Coming from North Nashville during the depression and segregation, I can’t see those medals without knowing that he took the call to action and went with it and made a career out of it,” he said.

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