The name says it all: Purple Hearts Reunited

Eric Dehm
April 05, 2018 - 11:26 am

Photo courtesy Purple Hearts Reunited

Major Zach Fike has served his country for 20 years in the Vermont National Guard and is among the recipients of one of our nation's most revered military decorations, the Purple heart. Fike says the medal means so much to him, he could never imagine being separated from it. So, when he started noticing the medals popping up in antique stores, tag sales, pawn shops and even lost and found bins, he felt a strong urge to retrieve them and get them back where they belong--with those who earned them.

Fike started Purple Hearts Reunited, a non-profit volunteer staffed organization that does just what it's name implies, reunites the Purple Heart, and other medals, with the vets who earned them or their families. And they don't just mail them to the families, Fike and his "Valor Guard" volunteers actually frame the medals and travel to deliver them in person. It's something that's appreciated by the families who have received them, but finding every deserving family out there is a tall order considering somewhere around 2 million purple hearts have been issued and no one is quite sure how many might be missing.

"We've returned close to 500, but I would say there's tens of thousands of these medals out there," Fike says. "And as people read about our stories, people then know where to turn to."

Fike says that as Purple Hearts Reunited has gained more visibility, they've seen a corresponding increase in the number of medals coming in. At this point, he says the organization averages two to three medals sent to them per day. Still, even as more and more medals come in Fike says first laying eyes on one hits close to home every time. 

Photo courtesy Purple Hearts Reunited

"You see that Purple Heart for the first time, you turn it over and see that name engraved on the back," Fike says. "For a lot of these families that was the last tangible item that they'll ever receive. In it's own spiritual way from what we've seen from over 400 returns across the country, is those medals, in their own way, represent them... to be separated with something that means so much to someone and then have it reunited some 70 years later, it brings closure to families lives." 

Fike says the majority of medals he receives are from the WWII and Korean eras, but they're starting to see an increase in Vietnam era medals, and expect the same to happen with OEF/OIF medals as the years go on. He says that as the numbers grow, he hopes his team of volunteers will too but even if he has to go it alone, he has no intention of ever giving up the mission. 

You can hear the full interview with Fike below. Listen no by clicking Play or click Share and select Download from the options to listen later.