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Lost Purple Heart returned to WWII veteran's family

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez
Published On: Mar 09 2013 06:50:31 PM CST

It's taken more than six decades, but the Purple Heart 20-year-old George Story earned for serving and dying in World War II has finally been returned to his family.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

It's taken more than six decades, but the Purple Heart 20-year-old George Story earned for serving and dying in World War II has finally been returned to his family.

"He was 18 when they drafted him into the service, because they were shorthanded on men," said Shirley Cowell.

Close to 70 years after Seaman 1st Class George Story gave his life for his country, his younger sister, Shirley Cowell, says it's like her big brother is home again.

"We miss him to this day," said Cowell. "68 years later...he's finally home."

Story was serving aboard the USS Bunker Hill aircraft carrier when he and his shipmates were killed on May 11, 1945. The carrier was attacked by Japanese kamikazes.

"The planes came down and they almost won the war," said Cowell. "As you can see from these pictures...pretty bad pictures...the explosion."

Story's Purple Heart was originally presented to his parents, both of whom are now deceased.

Story's father remarried after his mother died and over the years, the Purple Heart was misplaced. It was eventually found by Roger Balbo who then gave it to Army Captain Zachariah Fike.

Capt. Fike specializes in returning U.S. Military medals to their owners.

"The father of the veteran remarried later on in life," said Capt. Fike. "His new wife had a son and he inherited everything in the house so as he was going through some of the effects, he found the medal."

Saturday afternoon, love and memories filled a local church, as Story's proud sister celebrated her fallen hero and was reunited with his Purple Heart.

She says for now she'll keep it in her home and one day, pass it on to her three sons.

"I'm going to be a big and strong and not cry," said Cowell. "it's a happy time. It should be. It's back where it belongs."

The Purple Heart is the oldest military award that is still given to members of the U.S. Military.

The medallion as it is known today, was first awarded in February 1932. Since then, around 1.9 million Americans have been awarded a Purple Heart.

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