A WWII Purple Heart will be reunited with the recipient’s family after it was sold at an Arizona Goodwill store.
According to ABC News, Laura Hardy was shopping at a Mesa, Arizona, Goodwill over the weekend, when her husband spotted a Purple Heart displayed in the store’s jewelry case. The medal was priced at only $4.99 and was described as simply a purple piece of jewelry. Realizing that the Purple Heart was worth more than just a measly $5, the couple decided to buy it and find its rightful owner.
“It was just classified as purple jewelry for $4.99,” Hardy said. “They just rang it up … no comment from the people at the register or anywhere.”
Laura and her husband knew the Purple Heart belonged to someone, and they wanted to reunite it with the original recipient. So, when they returned to their home, Laura posted a message on Facebook about her purchase.
“Looking for the family of Eual H. Whiteman,” Hardy’s post read. “Deceased in nineteen ninety one. What a shame to find it at Goodwill for $4.99.”
Laura’s post soon went viral with over 80,000 shares. On Tuesday, Laura got the call she had been waiting for. Tina Cook, who has run a Facebook group called the Veteran Buddy Finder for the past 16 years, contacted Hardy and told her she had tracked down one of Whiteman’s relatives in Missouri using a genealogy website and a newspaper archive website. The relative, Whiteman’s former sister-in-law Phyllis Lawson, was shocked to discover that the Purple Heart had been found so far away.
“There’s a mystery person out there somewhere that gave that to the Goodwill,” Lawson said. “I have no idea how it got there.”
— FOX8 WGHP (@myfox8) March 17, 2016
According to Fox8, Whiteman’s Purple Heart ended up in a box of Whiteman’s nephew’s things that were donated, and that is how it managed to find its way into a Goodwill store. Hardy said she is just glad they found it, and she will be mailing it to Lawson this week.
“It belongs somewhere where people can honor it or at least be with the family,” Hardy said. “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.”
“I can’t believe the outpouring from all over the country and I’m going to search the Goodwills in the jewelry section and see if there’s any other medals that’s need to be returned,” Hardy added.
Courtney Nelson, vice president of marketing and communications for Goodwill of Central Arizona, said their employees are trained to recognize items of significance, but because they sift through thousands of items each day, the Purple Heart must have just slipped through.
A couple in Mesa discovered a purple heart at the jewelry counter at a Goodwill store: https://t.co/lXEeTQIswa
— 12 News (@12News) March 17, 2016
“We have a process in place for all of our donation attendants that when they identify an item of significance, like a medal, we ask them to pull it aside and we try to contact either the Veterans Affairs Department or local authorities,” Nelson said. “They are processing thousands of items every day so this was unfortunately an example of an item that slipped through and wasn’t identified as a Purple Heart.”
[Photo via Shutterstock]