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September/october 2008

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In 1976, in response to the families of WWII veterans who wanted to know what medals their fathers had been awarded, Army wife Linda Foster founded Medals of America. It was a suitcase operation, ideally suited to her peripatetic life. But the business grew 15-20 percent a year.

"People would ask, ‘Where have you been?’” she said. “There just wasn’t anyone else doing it.”

When he retired in 1990, Frank Foster joined his wife in the business. It was an easy fit: He had supervised awards and decorations in the Army. The reference material on medals was so scant that he wrote his own book—one that has been through several printings and revisions, and is now the standard reference.

Medals of America has a handsome plant just outside Greenville, South Carolina, and has several dozen people on the payroll. The assembly of the medals, ribbons, and display boxes is done entirely by hand. It’s careful, exacting work requiring enormous patience and precision.
A separate staff mans the telephones, taking orders. “It only made sense to hire veterans at the call center,” Foster said. “They’re the ones who know about and care about the medals the most.”

Although they carry and sell caps and t-shirts and pins and collectibles, it’s clearly their work with medals that the staff prides itself on. The display boxes are the heart and soul of what they do.

Medals of America is there to help veterans and their families. “When people call us,” Frank Foster said, “they want everything they are entitled to, but nothing else.”

 

 

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