NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - Photos of some veterans who served our country with honor, some wounded on the battlefield and others made the ultimate sacrifice, were on display at Federal Hall National Memorial on Monday. All of these men were awarded the Purple Heart.
But sometimes the prestigious medal is misplaced, lost or stolen and when that happens, the nonprofit organization Purple Hearts Reunited steps in.
"For a lot of those families this was the last tangible item they've ever received -- the last thing they can touch, they can feel," said Zachariah Fike, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited. "That memory of that loved one that didn't come home."
Since 2012, Purple Hearts Reunited has returned more than 350 Purple Heart medals. On Monday, the group adding another eight to that list. Seven families of deceased veterans and an Iraq War veteran gathered at Federal Hall, the site where the founding father of the Purple Heart, President George Washington, was sworn in.
"It's been a very emotional journey," said Lyle Feragen, whose uncle was killed in the Philippines in World War II. The family of Pvt. Dan Feragen didn't know much about his ultimate sacrifice until they started researching.
"Through the process, I was able to find out that he was never awarded this valor," said John Bear, Lyle Feragen's brother-in-law.
And 75 years later, the family of the Montana veteran received that honor.
"I'm just greatly honored that I get to receive the medals that were supposed to go to my uncle," Feragen said.
The Geasland family has a similar story. Army Sgt. George W. Roles died in combat on July 15, 1944.
"We moved into our new home in 1986 – sometime during that moving process [the medal] was lost," said Nick Geasland, Roles's son. "I'm very, very glad that this man's story can be told."
Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr. of Buffalo, New York, served in World War I. After his service, he came home and worked at the Bank of New York. His great niece was reunited with his Purple Heart on Monday.
"This brings his whole history of his heroism in the war," Fran Carlson said.
So far in 2017, Purple Hearts Reunited has returned 70 Purple Heart medals to families across the county. They hope to exceed 100 by the end of this year.
On Aug. 7, 1782 Gen. George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, known today as the Purple Heart and America's oldest military decoration. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, NY is the first in the nation dedicated to commemorating the sacrifices of the more than 1.8 million recipients of this award. The mission of the Hall of Honor is to collect, preserve and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across all conflicts for which the award has been available. To learn more about this military award and its recipients plan a visit to the hall: www.thepurpleheart.com www.thepurpleheart.com #nystateparks #onthisday #purpleheart #militaryhistory #military #honor #badgeofmilitarymerit