Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of Michigan servicemembers

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jul 10, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Three Michigan families were reunited with relatives' long lost Purple Heart medals Tuesday in Grand Rapids.

Purple Hearts are awarded to servicemembers who are wounded or killed in action and, for whatever reason, many of the medals are lost or stolen.  The organization Purple Hearts Reunited managed to return three to Michigan families at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, a moment they say they'll never forget.

"This is absolutely astounding," said Bill Gilesse.

Gilesse accepted the award Tuesday on behalf of his older brother Mark, who was wounded in action in 1944.  Mark passed away in 2003 without his Purple Heart in his possession.  Purple Hearts Reunited found the medal, along with those of Pvt. James Namath Jr., killed in action in the Phillipines in 1945, and Pvt. Clayton Richard, killed in action in Germany in 1944.

It's something personal for Sarah Corry, the executive director of Purple Hearts Reunited.  She's the daughter of a Vietnam veteran who received two Purple Hearts himself.

"My dad still is to this day my greatest hero, so I personally know the meaning behind these medals and what it means for families to get them back," Corry said.

During the ceremony, speakers read the stories of the men who received the awards, before their familiy members came on stage to accept them on their behalf.

"He never bragged about it or anything like that," Gilesse said. "I was very proud that he had that in the first place and that being my brother, all my brothers came back without being maimed so to speak, we all came back with Blue Stars."

Purple Hearts Reunited found the three medals on Ebay, Etsy and from a private collector. They spent the money to purchase them back to give to the families, something they do quite often.

Click here for more information on the organization.