MESA, Arizona — You can find a lot of treasures at second-hand stores. A Mesa, Arizona couple found a Purple Heart, which sparked a nationwide search for its owner.
Laura Hardy and her husband were at a Goodwill store, looking for green shirts for St. Patrick’s Day, when they found the Purple Heart in the jewelry section.
“This is not right that this is in a Goodwill,” Laura Hardy said. “We’re going to take it out and try to connect with its family.”
She and her husband said they knew the item marked for $4.99 was priceless to someone.
“It’s heavy and it’s engraved,” Hardy said.
The Purple Heart belonged to Eual Whiteman.
Via Hardy’s now-viral Facebook post, it was learned that Whiteman, who didn’t have any children, served in the Army. It was learned that he is likely buried at a national cemetery in Oregon.
“I really respect people who go into the military,” Hardy said.
Hardy said she learned the Purple Heart ended up in a box of Whiteman’s nephew’s things that were donated across the country.
“I can’t believe the outpouring from all over the country and I’m going to search the Goodwill stores in the jewelry section and see if there’s any other medals that’s need to be returned,” Hardy said.
A spokesperson for Goodwill said their employees sift through thousands of items a day — so it’s likely this accolade slipped through.
“If they do identify an item of significance like a Medal of Honor, we ask them to pull them and then we do try to contact, whether it’s the VA or local authorities,” said Courtney Nelson with Goodwill of Central Arizona.
Thanks to the power of social media, Hardy said the medal is now on its way back to its rightful owner.
“It must’ve been very valuable to his family and I thought they should have it back,” she said.
She also credits Tina Cook with Veteran Buddy Finders for helping her find the family.