The discovery of a forgotten Purple Heart has united distant family members, reported The Associated Press.
U.S. Army technician Eugene Victor Call and seven other soldiers were killed March 2, 1945 in Kapellen, Germany during World War II's Battle of the Bulge. The 32-year-old was a part of 2nd Platoon, Company C, 643rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, 83rd Infantry Division. Call received a posthumous Purple Heart for his service.
In October of 2015, Virginia Diagle of Fitchburg, Massachusetts passed away at the age of 82, leaving behind her husband Rick Diagle, reported the Sentinel and Enterprise. While taking inventory of his wife's possessions, Diagle came upon Call's Purple Heart. He soon discovered that his mother-in-law had been married to the deceased Army technician.
Diagle, a veteran himself, contacted the Vermont-based nonprofit Purple Hearts Reunited which returns lost or stolen military commendations to veterans or their surviving relatives. The organization put him in contact with distant relatives in Newport, New Hampshire and San Diego.
"This week's been quite a roller coaster ride. It's been almost 71 years since he died, but I'm almost reliving it – it's almost brand new to me," Mark Morris, a grandchild of Call's based in San Diego, said in an interview with the wire service. Morris' father, David Eugene, was taken to California when he was 8 and had few memories of Call. Eugene died in 2004. "I'm loving getting the medals but just finding out about all the family is awesome."
Diagle also reached out to Eugene Victor Call Jr., a 49 year-old truck driver in Newport. Call Jr. knew one of his great-uncles had died in World War II.
"I knew I was named after him, but other than that, nobody really said too much," he said.
Army National Guardsman and Purple Heart recipient Zachariah Fike founded Purple Hearts Reunited in July 2012, reported NPR. Fike started the organization after his mother gave him for Christmas a Purple Heart she had found in an antique shop. The name Corrado A.G. Piccoli was engraved on the back. Fike discovered that Piccoli had been killed in Europe during World War II and resolved to return the medal to his family.
The guardsman eventually tracked down Piccoli's sister Adeline Rockko in New Lisbon, New Jersey and returned the medal.
"We were very fortunate that you were the one who ended up with the Purple Heart," Rockko told Fike during a radio interview with NPR. "You're part of our family now."
Purple Hearts Reunited has returned service medals to over 200 veterans and family members.