When Laura Hardy and her husband were shopping at a Goodwill in Mesa, Ariz., they came across something quite priceless. As Hardy explains, they were there looking for St. Patrick’s Day shirts when a World War II Purple Heart sitting on a shelf caught their eye. They picked it up to inspect it and realized that the $4.99 Purple Heart did not belong there.
“This is one of the highest military honors you could get. This is something the family will cherish for a lifetime,” Hardy tells KNXV.
The Purple Heart was engraved so they knew it had to have a better home than the local Goodwill. They bought the Purple Heart for $4.99 and started their search for its proper owner. The name on the back of the medal read: Eual H. Whiteman. It was their one clue.
The couple posted about it on Facebook, and it was shared over 35,000 times. Through online connections, the Hardy’s learned that Whiteman passed away in 1991, so they searched for his next of kin.
Only one living relative was able to be found — an ex-sister-in-law named Phyllis Lawson, and the medal was presented to her. She told the Hardy’s that Whiteman’s nephew had been given the Purple Heart, but it must have been accidentally lost when the nephew’s friend donated a box of his belongings.
Whiteman was indeed an impressive man. In addition to being a decorated serviceman, he was on the cover of LIFE Magazine in the 50s for bull-riding and was a stuntman in The Way West with Sally Field and Kirk Douglas.
Lawson sums it all up perfectly as she says, “Legacy is something we don’t have a lot of and it’s precious to ya’.”
You can read further about the news report and learn more about the return of Whiteman’s Purple Heart over on ABC 15 News.