Medals of America can trace its origin to trying to solve the age-old problem of what a son can get his father for Christmas. In the early 1970s, while serving as Army officer in Germany, Frank Foster decided to try and collect his father’s World War II Medals and give them to him for Christmas. Even though he was on active duty in the Army, it took almost nine months to obtain the different campaign Medals and a special request to the French government to obtained the French Cross of War that his father had been awarded. After collecting all of the military medals that his father had earned in World War II it still took several months to find an appropriate military display case and then mount the medals in the case.
However, on Christmas Day when he presented the present to his father the display was such a hit it was clearly worth all the effort. In fact, the first thing his dad did was to take the case and hang it in a place of honor in the den. Of course, as his family and friends visited during the Christmas holidays the display case became the center of attraction with reminiscing World War II veterans, cousins, uncles and friends. As a result, they all asked Frank to prepare display cases for them. To his surprise none of them had ever received their full size campaign or victory medals.
During the drive back to their new duty station with the Army General Staff in Washington D.C. Frank’s wife, Linda, remarked that helping veterans identify and obtain their medals might be a good idea for a business. She said considering the different personalities of his relatives who could never agree on anything, to all agree on what a great idea it was to have a display case of their military medals was a clear signal of an unfulfilled need. It would be a business to fill a real need for veterans in this country. She also liked the idea of a business that could be conducted by mail as they moved from duty station to duty station.
The Fosters continued to talk about the idea and different ways of trying to implement the business while at the same time grappling with the problem of how to obtain the medals, military insignia and badges. Where could they find information that would ensure that they could clearly identify which campaign medals and battle stars every veteran was authorized? How did they make sure a veteran got the medals he deserved? How did they protect the honor of the medals so none ever went to people who had not earned them? As they spent hours, then days and finally months researching military records and regulations many startling facts begin to emerge. Most World War II veterans never received their medals since only ribbon bars were issued during the war and at the end. No campaign medals had been made during the war. The brass needed for their manufacture was a critical war item used in the manufacture of ammunition. There had literally been no medals to present to soldiers as they left the service. Only decorations for valor and merit or the Purple Heart for wounds had been minted. Additionally, to the Foster’s surprise, many medals such as the occupation medal and blanket awards of the Bronze Star medal to combat Infantrymen and combat medics were authorized well after the war when most veterans had been home and back in civilian life for years. The more they studied, the more convinced they became that there was an unfinished job to be done in honoring the American servicemen and women who had made the greatest sacrifices.
The idea continued to occupy their conversations, but nothing really happened until they were returning home from a dinner party in Georgetown one night. As they rode home with another couple, Frank began to expand on the idea of the business to help veterans obtain and display their medals. His friend in the backseat said it sounded like a great idea, but wouldn’t amount to anything because he never followed up on any of his ideas. Goaded on by his friends dig, the Foster’s decided to write a business plan. The next morning Medals of America was born on their dining room table amid pots of hot coffee and clouds of blue cigarette smoke.
The business started with small classified ads in a few magazines followed up by a small four-page black and white catalog containing a limited selection of hard to find campaign medals and insignia. Just obtaining the medals and military badges was a very difficult proposition.
That was in 1976 and then following moves to Leavenworth, Kansas, Colorado Springs, Atlanta and Carlisle, PA. the Fosters continued to put every cent they earned from Medals of America back into the Company; expanding its inventory, improving its catalog and increasing its advertising. For many years, Linda ran the business out of spare rooms in the house; handling all the day-to-day operations while Frank did the marketing, catalog work and book keeping at night and on the weekends. By the early 80’s, Medals of America had grown in size and needed to move into a small building. About the same time, that first color cover was introduced on the catalog and the first part-time employees hired to help Linda with day-to-day operations.
In 1990, Frank retired from the Army as the Commandant and Chief of the Adjutant General Corps. The day after retirement, he loaded the largest U Haul truck available with Medals of America inventory, equipment and files and drove straight to South Carolina where he Linda reopened Medals of America in a 3,000 square foot building on a farm they had purchased the year before. Since 1990, the Company has grown steadily from one part-time employee to 30 full-time employees now operating out of the state-of-the-art customer service center fulfillment center located in the beautiful South Chase business Park in Fountain Inn, South Carolina.
Between 1990 and 2000, Medals of America grew to become the clearly established leader in supplying military awards and insignia to veterans and their families. Expanded customer service and the growth of custom mounting provided an exceptional level of service to a growing number of veterans and their families who repeatedly ask, “Where have you been?” Frank, with the help of several leading experts, wrote or published a series of definitive reference books on U.S. Military Medals, complete with separate books on the medals, badges and insignia of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force. This collection of military books was rounded out with books on the Medals of the United Nations and on the former Republic of Vietnam.
The combination of these authoritative works and their widespread sales, coupled with a superb group of former Army, Navy and Air Force veterans in customer service, identified Medals of America as the most knowledgeable center on veterans awards in the United States for World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Southwest Asia service. Today, the Company serves America’s military veterans and their families through a forty four-page catalog, toll free call center and extraordinarily informative retail web site where customers can order over 2,000 medals, badges and military insignia.
Medals of America has continued to grow by listening to what veterans and their families want in the way of service and products. 1999 saw the introduction of the most complete and heraldic correct series of America military commemorative medals ever issued in United States. The series of Commemorative Medals has been an enormous hit with military veterans and in fact the Cold War Victory Commemorative Medal has become the largest selling commemorative medal in the United States. Sales of Medals of America’s Complete Guide to U.S. Medals in both hardcover and paperback have gone over 100,000 copies, in 5 different editions and recently returned to press for another 10,000 copies.
Today, Medals of America is a true American treasure. It remains the one place where military veterans and their families can call fellow veterans and obtained specific advice on their military awards. This service coupled with Medals of America’s ability to prepare custom medals displays for veterans and their families makes it one of the most unique and fascinating businesses in our great country.Medals of America's Background and History,