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Michigan families reunite with relatives’ lost Purple Hearts

July 11, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Three World War II soldiers died without having their Purple Heart awards in their possession, but the long-missing medals have been returned to their families in Michigan.

Nonprofit Purple Hearts Reunited recovered the three medals and presented them to their rightful owners on Tuesday during a ceremony in Grand Rapids. The families of Army Staff Sgt. Marinum Gillesse, and Pvts. James Nameth Jr. and Clayton Richard were honored at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Gillesse was wounded in action and died in 2003. Nameth was killed in action in the Philippines in 1945, while Richard was killed in action in Germany in 1944.

Gillesse’s brother, William Gillesse, and Nameth’s niece, Michelle Nameth McNulty, accepted the medals with Richard’s nephew, Dennis Richard. William Gillesse called the return of his brother’s Purple Heart “absolutely astounding.”

The nonprofit purchased the three medals returned Tuesday off eBay, Etsy and from a private collector.

The heart-shaped bronze medal is a U.S. military decoration awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded or killed in action. Many of the awards are lost or stolen, and Purple Hearts Reunited has been tracking them down since 2012. The organization has returned 450 total medals back to where they belong.

Sarah Corry, the group’s executive director, is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran who received two Purple Hearts.

“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.

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