A Purple Heart is being returned to the family of a World War II veteran. Shockingly enough, this noble medal of honor was being sold in a Goodwill store in Arizona for no more than $4.99. The Purple Heart is awarded to people of service on behalf of the U.S. President to those individuals who are injured or killed while on duty. According to Sport Act News this March 17, 2016, the big-hearted and patriotic couple who first spotted the item said they were stunned to see it being sold to the public without any fanfare.
Although one may expect to find a great many interesting things at Goodwill for a fair price, a Purple Heart is likely not one of them. However, this medal of sacrifice was recently discovered at a local store, and suffice it to say that Laura Hardy was shocked. She had been out shopping with her husband in Mesa on a sleepy weekend when she noticed the shiny Purple Heart being sold in the jewelry section of the Goodwill store.
Hardy was not certain if the employees at the Goodwill even knew it was a real Purple Heart and not simple jewelry. “It was just classified as purple jewelry for $4.99,” the woman shared in a statement. “They just rang it up … no comment from the people at the register or anywhere.”
After Hardy returned back to her home, she and her husband decided that they wanted to do whatever it took to see that the Purple Heart was brought back to its rightful owner—or, at the very least, that individual’s family. She noticed there was a name on the back of the supposed “jewelry,” Eual H. Whiteman, and posted the Purple Heart along with the name on her personal Facebook page.
Only a couple short days later, notes ABC News in their report this week, Hardy received a very important phone call. The caller on the other line was Tina Cook, an organizer of a popular Facebook group known as Veteran Buddy Finder, that aims to assist U.S. veterans in reconnecting with one another.
Cook revealed in a statement to ABC News that she did a little digging of her own to locate the rightful owner of this soon-to-be-returned Purple Heart. Thanks to her research on a genealogy website as well as old military archives in an attempt to identify any references to Whiteman, she was in fact able to find a relative of his still living in Missouri.
According to the news release, the relative is Phyllis Lawson, the former sister-in-law of Whiteman. She said that she was utterly stunned to receive word from both Hardy and Cook that Whiteman’s very own Purple Heart and not only been unearthed, but found in Arizona of all places. The 68-year-old woman added that she is at a complete loss as to how the medal wound up in Goodwill.
“There’s a mystery person out there somewhere that gave that to the Goodwill,” said Lawson. “I have no idea how it got there.” The 68-year-old added that although she knew Whiteman vaguely through marriage to his younger brother, she had never known the man himself very well. “He and my ex-husband were 16 years apart and he left for the military when Robert was extremely young and then he just kind of stayed gone … He came home once a few weeks after his mother died and stayed about a week and then he was gone again.”
Thanks to this bighearted couple, this Purple Heart has been returned home at last. Thanks to Cook’s findings, we also know that Whiteman passed away in 1991. He is buried in Oregon, at the Willamette National Cemetery, and fought in World War II. The veteran also earned a Combat Badge and a Presidential Unit Badge with the 82nd Airborne Division, on top of his Purple Heart. Given that Hardy says her own grandfather was a Purple Heart recipient, she felt it was her duty to ensure the important medal was not merely left on display at Goodwill, and instead made safe back to a family member.
“It belongs somewhere where people can honor it or at least be with the family,” Hardy concluded. “I just thought it was unbelievable, all the people who tried to help, from all over the country people were on their computers trying to find this man.”