Purple Heart Reunited with Owner After 70 Years

Purple Heart award makes its way back home with the help of a few patriotic citizens.

Army Cpl. George Hemphill returned to North Carolina after fighting in World War II many years ago and vowed to put the horrors of life as an infantryman behind him. That included not inquiring about the Purple Heart he received and mailed home for safekeeping. Image his surprise when he found out a Florida man actually bought the medal back in 2000 at an antique shop in South Carolina. Since then the heart made its way to Vermont with a man that plans on giving Hemphill the honor he deserves with a special ceremony.

Purple Heart Award

Now 90-years-old, Hemphill said he was flabbergasted at the news and never believed he would ever see the medal again. He is grateful for the work people are doing for him, even though it is out of their way. The veteran and his purple heart will finally be reunited at a community center as Capt. Zachariah Fike, head of the nonprofit Purple Hearts Reunited, presents the award along with a Bronze Star Hemphill never knew the military granted him.

Fike started his nonprofit group back in 2009 and has since reunited 20 awards with their rightful owners, a family member, or museum. However this ceremony has a little extra sentiment to it. This will be the first time Fike returns a Purple Heart to a living recipient.

“Returning these medals brings closure to the families. I absolutely love doing it,” said Fike, noting donations don’t nearly cover his expenses of buying the Purple Hearts and travel to present them. “I’ve spent quite a bit of money on this project. I would do it 10 times over because it’s the right thing to do.”

Purple Heart Medal with American flag

Hemphill received the Purple Heart in 1944 after he was hit by shrapnel from enemy fire and was blinded for three weeks. While still lying in a hospital bed, he mailed the award back home to his mother and never asked about it again. His family never knew he won it since he never talked about the war.

Nobody knows the exact whereabouts of the Purple Heart until October 2000 when a Florida man bought it from an antique store. When he could not find the owner, he kept it safe for more than a decade until he was connected to Fike who tracked Hemphill down.

Hemphill commented, “I’m not the hero. The heroes are still over there – the ones that didn’t come back. They’re the real heroes.” George Hemphill does not believe he deserves the ceremony, but his family thinks differently and is determined to properly honor the veteran who protected his country and American flag so well.

Do you have a US veteran in your life that you believe never received the recognition they deserved? We have all types of military flag accessories such as memorial cases for flags, military flag holders and more.

Credit: Huffington Post

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2 Replies to “Purple Heart Reunited with Owner After 70 Years

  1. Sir,
    I just read about “Purple Hearts Reunited” on internet. I am thinking of trying to get a copy of my dad’s Purple Heart and service awards he earned during WWII in the Pever nallfiacific. I have his service records and a purple heart was not mentioned on his discharge record. He said he was wounded and received a purple heart but lost it. I was just wondering.
    Any info will be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Allen McDaniel

  2. I bought a Purple Heart out of an old collection. I was going to sell it on eBay but they took the posting down. I thought it would be a nice gift to a service member that had lost or misplaced theirs. My Purple Heart doesn’t have a name on the back and is in the box with other Pin and a bar. I would say World War 2 era. This story is very encouraging to read!

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