Purple Heart returns to family of WWII soldier

WWII soldier's Purple Heart on its way home

More than 70 years after the end of World War II, a Purple Heart of a soldier killed in combat is set to return home. 

In this case, "home" is back to Ann Olsen, the niece of Private First Class Johnnie Olsen. 

"It was always he was a good, decent man. He was kind, thoughtful, fun-loving, and you never saw him where he didn't have a smile on his face," said Olsen, who never met her uncle, but grew up hearing stories of his impact on others. 

While those memories were shared often, the whereabouts of his Purple Heart were not known. 

"Everybody assumed somebody had it," said Olsen. 

But last week, in of all places, it finally turned up - in a thrift store, just outside Ft. Lewis, Washington.  That's where Brandon Beaver, a veteran himself, found it - listed for just $15. 

"I located a Purple Heart in a display case. When I first saw it, I knew exactly what it was. I contacted him since he wasn't there and said 'hey I need to take this and find the family for it,'" Beaver explained. 

Beaver connected with the owner of the thrift shop, and told the owner that he wanted to reunite it with PFC Olsen's family, and would not pay for it.  The owner agreed to give it to Beaver in order to return it, free of charge. 

After acquiring the medal, he posted the picture on veterans websites and social media pages. That's where it caught the attention of Sgt. Justin Trammell. 

"It needed to be done... it's the right thing to do... to give the family the medal. It belongs in one place only... that's with the family," explained Sgt. Trammell.

Over the next few days, Trammell tracked lead after lead, before finally connecting with a distant relative of Olsen's.  That relative reached out to Ann for confirmation. 

"He asked, 'Ann - do you know a Johnnie I. Olsen?'  And I said 'yeah, that's daddy's youngest brother,'" said Olsen. 

With that, Trammell and Beaver made their way to the post office to mail it back. 

"I’m not a crier, but it actually brought tears to my eyes.  And what actually went through my mind is – this to me speaks to the warrior ethos. You know, never leave a fallen comrade.  And I feel like they are bringing part of Johnnie home," said Olsen. 

"Purple Hearts aren't necessarily given out every day. They're given out for bravery and sacrifice to your country... if somebody passed away because of a Purple Heart... it needs to go back to the family," said Beaver. 

"I think it's a great example of that... can't leave a soldier behind... that's what Brandon and I both believe," added Trammell. 

Olsen, battling back tears, shared her heartfelt thanks to Beaver and Trammell.

"They're great guys.  I asked them what do I owe you for getting [the Purple Heart] and sending it to us, and they said 'not a penny.  We do this because we want to.'"

 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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