MT. LEBANON (KDKA) — A local family wants answers after they found their loved one’s military medals up for auction online.
The problem is they say they have the real medals.READ MORE: Republicans In Pennsylvania And Other States Using Ballot Initiatives To Change Election Laws
Bird Park in Mt. Lebanon, named after the community’s first resident killed in Vietnam, is a quiet and serene place.
But now a controversy involving Lt. Thomas Bird’s medals is raising a storm.
Bird, a Marine helicopter pilot, was shot down and killed in Vietnam.
“To know that somebody is making a dime off my brother’s sacrifice makes me sick,” Bird’s brother Jon told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, members of the Bird family learned that some of their brother’s service medals were being auctioned off in Ohio.
Just one problem. The family has all of his original medals.
“They’re counterfeit,” said John Bird.
The auction was discovered by the Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon, which monitors Mt. Lebanon online memorabilia.
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano Reports More On The Story.
“If this is legit and real and the family is okay with this, we’d love to bring these medals back to Mt. Lebanon,” said Jim Wojcik, past president of the Historical Society.
But the Bird family said they have all their brother’s medals.
So what was the auction house selling?READ MORE: Rep. Mike Kelly Facing Scrutiny Over Stocks Purchases By The Congressman And His Wife
In an email, the auction house insists they sold Lt. Bird’s real medals, with Miles King writing the family, “I have spoken with the consignor about the situation and he feels they are authentic. So you understand that he is a very knowledgeable collector that has been in the hobby over 40 years.”
Turns out service medals are readily available online, meaning anyone can buy for as little as $35 and resell them.
Unhappy that this was happening, Kelly Bird, another brother, called the auction house and spoke to the owner.
“He was very rude actually,” Kelly Bird said. “He said to me, ‘It’s not like your brother was the first soldier to shoot the first Vietnam guy, so these medals aren’t going to go for a lot of money.’”
“So I kept my cool and said, ‘Miles, that’s not the reason I’m calling. We’d like them to be taken off the auction itself.’”
That request was refused, and the three medals were auctioned last week for $1,250.
The auction house insists that the medals they auctioned really did belong to Lt. Bird and say the family offered no evidence that they weren’t genuine.
“They’re asking us to prove that they weren’t duplicates, but they had no proof that they were real medals,” said John Bird.
The Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon says there could be many similar cases.
“I found multiple listings of medals of people besides Tom Bird. It wasn’t just his medals,” Wojcik.
The family insists the medals are fake.
“They are profiting off the death of our brother,” says Kelly Bird. “That’s so sad.”MORE NEWS: New Trial Begins For 83-Year-Old Ohio Man Who Spent 45 Years In Prison
KDKA reached out to the Marines who say they cannot say how often this occurs, but they are certainly sympathetic to the family.