SHERIDAN, Colo. (KDVR) — Military medals discovered in an auctioned Colorado storage unit have now been returned to the service member’s family.

“It’s shocking. Just so shocking,” Rhonda Erickson said. 

Erickson said she was watching FOX31 news Wednesday morning when she heard a story about medals belonging to a veteran named “Ralph M. Hayward.” She and her sister, Trish Frame, immediately recognized the display case, custom-built by their brother-in-law. 

A frame with a folded US flag and numerous military medals from WWII, Vietnam
Military medals discovered in a storage unit in Colorado (KDVR)

“You know, we haven’t seen it in years, so yeah. It just brings back a lot of memories,” Frame said.

Hayward died in 2003. According to Frame and Erickson, the medals were framed in 2004 and given away to a great-grandchild in 2007 after Hayward’s wife died. It is unclear where the medals have been for the past 15 years. 

“But it’s now not going to be lost no more. We’re going to keep it in our family,” Frame said. 

Medal discovery brings back memories

Frame, Erickson and their mother, Margaret Frame, say they were extremely close with Hayward. Margaret Frame broke down in tears at the sight of the newfound medals as it brought back a flood of memories. 

“We just all loved him dearly,” she said. 

Erickson, Trish Frame and Margaret Frame are in possession of Hayward’s military uniform, photographs and letters from his time in the service and the rest of his medals, including a second Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. 

“Uncle Ralph was a special man. He really was. And to see this is a big honor,” Erickson said. 

Black-and-white photo of a man in U.S. Army uniform
Ralph M. Hayward (Photo courtesy of the family)

They say he rarely talked about his time in the service, despite it being such a big part of his life. They knew him for a special soup he cooked for the family and for always wanting to share stories. 

“He was always joking. He was fun to be around. He always had a story,” Trish Frame said. 

According to his obituary, Hayward died July 15, 2003, at age 84. He joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and served for seven years before retiring to Greeley. He re-enlisted in 1955 and served another 15 years before being discharged. He fought in both World War II and the Vietnam War.

Denver VFW Post 501 is now organizing a special ceremony to formally present the recently discovered medals to Hayward’s family.