CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – A World War I veteran died overseas in France but Thursday night, he got an award that has been lost for years.
In Canfield, a great-nephew received his great uncle’s Purple Heart almost 101 years to the day he died in the war.
Joseph Knecht never knew his great uncle, who shares the same name.
Thanks to Purple Hearts Reunited, he and his family received a Purple Heart and something almost as valuable — closure.
“I received a phone call out of the blue, which was a big surprise,” Knecht said.
He was too young to know his great uncle but, through some research, learned about him and his service to our country during WWI.
“So I actually did some research, talked to my mom,” Knecht said. “She said she had a box of things that belonged to him. Letters from home, letters he sent to his parents, the obituary.”
He also looked into the nonprofit organization on the other end of the line, Purple Hearts Reunited.
“When they explained who they were and what they did, it was quite impressive,” Knecht said.
Joseph Knecht, from Hartford, Indiana, enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 29, 1918.
Six months later on Sept. 29, he was killed in action in France during one of the final offensives in war.
Knecht’s family would receive a Lady of Columbia certificate.
“They asked me if I would be interested in receiving it and I said, ‘Absolutely,'” Knecht said.
Jessica Jaggars, Director of Operations for Purple Hearts Reunited, is also a member of the Vermont Army National Guard. Her organization rescued this sentimental certificate from eBay.
“He mentioned to me, ‘Oh, I have the obituary.’ So I am excited to see more information than what we have. So oftentimes, when we connect with families, we are putting the puzzle pieces back together,” she said.
Jaggars said there are at least 45,000 veterans organizations but their nonprofit is the only one that has a mission of returning medals of valor.
“We are actually encouraging the finders in some situations to go and return it if it’s close to them. That is an experience that cannot be replicated.”
If you have any medals of valor or want to see Purple Hearts Reunited’s database, you can do so online.