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A Purple Heart that was mistakenly donated to Goodwill will be returned to a sailor's family

CNN logo CNN 7/11/2019 By Amanda Jackson and Chris Boyette, CNN
a close up of a sign: Military records show that Nick D'Amelio Jr. served in the Navy during World War II. © Goodwill Industries, Southern Arizona Military records show that Nick D'Amelio Jr. served in the Navy during World War II.

A World War II sailor's family will be reunited with his Purple Heart medal that was accidentally donated to a Goodwill in Tucson, Arizona.

An associate sorting items at the donation center in mid-June came across the medal in a box of housewares. It was engraved with the name Nick D'Amelio Jr. and "S2C, USN."

According to military records, D'Amelio was a seaman second class in the US Navy who was declared missing in action when the USS Little sank in the Solomon Islands on September 5, 1942.

On Wednesday, great-nephew Doug Hanna confirmed that his family is in the process of getting it returned.

"Overall, besides overcoming the shock and realization the Purple Heart was misplaced, we are anxious to have it returned home," he said.

A year after the USS Little sank, D'Amelio was declared dead and memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Piecing the puzzle together

Goodwill shared images of the prestigious medal on social media on Monday in hopes of finding the recipient's family. It also teamed up with Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit organization that returns lost or stolen medals to veterans and military families.

"It's important that we get it to the right family," Judith Roman Bucasas, director of marketing for Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona, said Monday. "This guy didn't get to make it back home."

Hanna said the medal was kept close to D'Amelio's sister, Louise, and she would often carry it in her pocket.

"Louise was spiritual and believed her brothers and husband were close to her in her final days," he said. "This medal and the numbers '954' brought her comfort."

After her death, Hanna believes, the medal accidentally landed in a box of donations as family members sorted her belongings.

"The family of Seaman Nick D'Amelio Jr. are greatly indebted to the efforts of so many who have worked tirelessly to return this misplaced treasure to our family," Hanna said.

The Purple Heart is given to US service members who are wounded or killed in combat. The US Department of Veterans Affairs says it's "one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the US armed forces" and "the nation's oldest military award."

In 2016, a Purple Heart was accidentally donated to a Goodwill in Arizona, and it was reunited with the service member's family in Missouri with the help of people on social media.

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