MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Lost Purple Heart medal reunited with family of late World War II hero

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A lost Purple Heart medal was reunited with the family of a late World War II hero Monday.

Clarence Vernie Hawksley served as a U.S. Army captain for the 382nd Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division from 1942-1946, but decades later the the Purple Heart medal awarded to him during his service was found on a Bakersfield street. Bakersfield’s very own Karen Galyan did all she can to change that.

“It needs to go home,” Galyan said last month of the Purple Heart, a United States military medal awarded to men and women wounded or killed in service.

Someone found the medal in Bakersfield in January at the intersection of 8th and T Streets, and turned it in to the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery. Galyan immediately led the effort to reunite the medal with its owner.

Hawksley died in 1963, and his wife and only daughter passed away several years later. However, following a weeks-long search, Galyan found a living relative.

“This purple heart is finally going home and we will have mission complete,” Galyan said with excitement after she successfully located Hawksley’s granddaughter Laura Garrod, a resident of Bullhead City, AZ.

Garrod said she and other family members were filled with gratitude to learn the medal will soon be in their possession. “I’m very grateful. The family is very grateful to hear it is coming back to the family. We’re so pleased.”

She she’s also expressed gratitude to Galyan for her efforts. Galyan, a Goldstar mother who has endured the pain of losing her own son LCpl David Cole Lang David Cole Lang, said her son would be proud.

“My heart was very sad. My son jumped into my heart and said ‘oh no mom, we’re going to have a mission. I’m going to land a purple heart into your hands and we’re going to get it home.’”

Galyan presented Garrod with the Purple Heart as part of a larger ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday — National Vietnam War Veteran’s Day — at the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery.

“I’m just overjoyed. I’m thrilled. We’re very humbled. It’s just a big honor that people took the time to find me and track me down. I’m really appreciative for everyone’s work on this,” Garrod said.

Galyan was grateful to reunite the lost medal.

“Mission is complete, that Purple Heart is home! It’s home.”

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