Families Reunited with Purple Hearts

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NBC Nightly News
Lester Holt/Ron Allen
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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After finding lost Purple Heart medals in antique shops and even junkyards, a National Guard captain is making it his mission to find the rightful owners and return the awards to their families.



"Families Reunited with Purple Hearts." Ron Allen, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 18 Aug. 2012. NBC Learn. Web. 12 August 2017.


Allen, R. (Reporter), & Holt, L. (Anchor). (2012, August 18). Families Reunited with Purple Hearts. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=60390


"Families Reunited with Purple Hearts" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 08/18/2012. Accessed Sat Aug 12 2017 from NBC Learn: https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=60390


Families Reunited with Purple Hearts

LESTER HOLT, anchor:

Finally tonight, it is a small but meaningful token of gratitude and acknowledgment awarded to American service members wounded or killed in combat. The Purple Heart is the military’s oldest medal. And over time, many have found their way into antique shops and into the hands of collectors. Tonight NBC’s Ron Allen has the story of one decorated soldier determined to make a difference by returning some of those precious honors to where they belong.

RON ALLEN, reporting:

How old is this medal?

Captain ZACHARIAH FIKE: That’s from 1932, sir. That’s when the Purple Heart medal was actually designed.

ALLEN: Captain Zac Fike, a Vermont National Guardsman, knows what it takes to earn a Purple Heart. He earned his in Afghanistan on September 11, 2010, when shrapnel from a rocket blast left him wounded. But Fike says he cares more about the Purple Hearts he’s finding. Each one has identification on the back of it?

Captain FIKE: Yes, sir.

ALLEN: Medals that somehow, over the years, became separated from the men and women who earned them. They’ve been found in nursing homes—

Captain FIKE: Yes, sir.

ALLEN: --antique shops—

Captain FIKE: Yes, sir.

ALLEN: --a landfill?

Captain FIKE: Yes, sir. In the late fifties a gentleman that worked at the sanitation department found a medal on the ground.

ALLEN: Fike’s mother gave him one she found in an antique shop as a gift.

JOYCE FIKE: I saw it in that case. No, I did not know he was going to pursue it to the lengths that he did to return it to its rightful owner.

Captain FIKE: It’s what they represent. And I think a lot of people can’t see that. To me, they’re a symbol of sacrifice.

ALLEN: It belonged to a Private Corrado Piccoli, just 21 when killed fighting to liberate a French village during World War II. Fike believed Piccoli’s family should have the medal and searched every public record available to find them. A year later, he located Piccoli’s grave. Amazingly, both men were from upstate New York.

Captain FIKE: I just felt throughout the process that he was communicating with me. And then I do consider him a brother in arms.

ALLEN: Fike then found two of Piccoli’s sisters and presented them--along with 50 other Piccolis--the 68 year old medal.

ADELINE ROCKKO (Private Piccoli’s Sister): It certainly is a wonderful honor. And I believe if my brother was still alive he would carry it proudly.

ALLEN: And the captain’s mission continues. He believes there are still thousands of Purple Hearts out there, lost, or forgotten or perhaps in the hands of collectors that he wants to find and return to the families of those who sacrificed.

Captain FIKE: It just symbolizes, you know, everything about war. You know, shedding your blood, dying for your country.

ALLEN: So far, he’s returned half a dozen Purple Hearts and discovers more every week.

Captain FIKE: One, two, three, four, five, six more I’m looking to return.

ALLEN: Giving families like the Piccolis something very powerful to touch and hold onto. Ron Allen, NBC News, Watertown, New York.