MAGNOLIA, New Jersey -- Corporal Frank Humes' Purple Heart has traversed multiple continents and passed through different hands across multiple decades. But now it has finally returned home.
Frank was drafted into the U.S. Army in November 1968. He was just 19-years-old. He served as a sniper for Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. His destination: Vietnam.
Frank went out on a three-man LRRP mission and was inserted into Vietnam via rope ladders.
"On the day he died, they had been inserted into an area where there was a Viet Cong battalion. So as soon as they hit the ground, they were in a firefight," said Frank's brother, William.
Frank was shot in the back of the head. He was awarded two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and two Bronze Star Medals.
William said he never learned the actual details of his brother's death until a 2002 reunion with Frank's fellow service members. That's when he was blown away by two of Frank's teammates, including Larry Flanagan.
"I felt a bond with them," said Williams. "They talked about him like he was their brother, so I returned it -- gave them the Purple Hearts."
Larry Flanagan died in October 2021 from pulmonary fibrosis, likely related to Agent Orange exposure. When his daughter discovered the Purple Heart among his belongings, she knew it wasn't her father's. So she called John Duffy who served with both Frank and Larry.
"Purple Heart means a lot," said John Duffy, a Vietnam War veteran of Quincey, Mass. "You can't just leave those things go. You either have to give it to the person or the family. So I figured sooner or later, I'd find him."
And nine months later, he found William. John drove six hours to return the Purple Heart in person.
"That's real brotherhood," said Humes. "Real brotherhood. He could have just mailed it, but he drove it. So that means everything."
ALSO READ | Car slams into condo building on Long Island