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The Value in Returning Military Items to Families

Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2021
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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purple heartNumerous stories have recently hit the airways about people who have lost, misplaced, or had Purple Heart medals stolen. These medals are often inherited or given to family members after the recipient has passed away. Not only do they have historical value, but they also are extremely sentimental.

The Purple Heart medal is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed in combat. The first people to receive the predecessor to the Purple Heart, the Badge of Military Merit, were Continental Army Soldiers William Brown and Elijah Churchill, who were honored for their service in the Revolutionary War. The first service member to receive the modern-day Purple Heart was Army General Douglas MacArthur for his service in the Pacific theatre during World War II.

Each year, on August 7, Purple Heart Day is acknowledged to commemorate the creation of this oldest American military award. Today, the medal continues to be presented to American service members. Per the USO, “A Purple Heart is a solemn distinction and means a service member has greatly sacrificed themselves, or paid the ultimate price, while in the line of duty.” Thus, the medal is significant.

The nonprofit foundation, Purple Hearts Reunited, helps to recover and return military items to their rightful owners, or to their families. In 2019, during a ceremony at the New York City Fire Museum, Helen Patton, granddaughter of Army General George Patton, presented a missing military item to the family of Army Private First Class Calvin Morris who fought in WWII. Morris left behind a footlocker after staying at a half-way house on Christmas Eve in 1944. Another seven servicemembers had their medals recovered and returned to their families that same night.

Just this month, a Purple Heart medal was returned to a local veteran’s family after being lost for nearly a decade. During a special ceremony, Carmen Mary Chavez received her father’s Purple Heart that was lost eight years ago during a move. Private First Class Vincent Joseph Chavez, was killed in action in North Korea at the young age of 26, when Carmen was just 8 months old. The Chavez family, with a history of service, was grateful to have the Purple Heart returned as the medal represents the sacrifices they have made. The recovery of the lost medal was personally meaningful to Carmen. Per WTOL11, “The significance of the Purple Heart is felt deep in his daughter’s heart, with pride for the father she never knew.”

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