Lost Purple Heart found in dump returned to WWII veteran's family

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Monday, August 10, 2015
Purple heart found in dump in the 1990s returned to family
A Minnesota family was reunited with a World War II soldier's Purple Heart decades after it went missing (KSTP).

A WWII veteran's lost Purple Heart medal that was found in a dump sometime in the '90s was reunited with his family.

The Purple Heart was found by Tammi Heart's mother near her cabin in Wawina, Minn. in the 90s, according to the Associated Press. That location was the childhood home of veteran Wiljo Matalamaki, who the medal was originally awarded to before it was lost. Heart then held on to the medal after her mother died.

"She was very sad," Heart told ABC affiliate KSTP. "It's such a beautiful thing and it represents someone who died and we were both very sad that someone would throw that out and we figured it couldn't be on purpose. It had to be an accident that they threw it out."

Matalakami, a flight engineer, was presumed dead after his B-24 bomber was shot down off the coast of Germany in 1944. After his mother died in 1966, Matalakami's Purple Heart disappeared.

When Matalakami's nephew Randy Heikkila was touring the veteran's former home, he bumped into Heart, and was reunited with his uncle's medal.

"We happened to run into Tami Heart and we were talking and we had mentioned Wiljo in there and she said that she had his Purple Heart," Heikkila said. "We were excited because we'd been looking at it for years and we were very grateful to get it back."

Heart was saddened to part with the medal, which had become a memento of her own mother after holding on to it for so many years. But she felt it was finally time to let the medal go.

"It's meant a lot to me," Heart told AP. "It's time to turn him over."