A Purple Heart was finally returned the family of the man it belonged to, about 10 years after being found in the dirt.
Joseph Ridlon was walking down the street in Nyack, N.Y., nearly a decade ago when he discovered the medal, which read, "For Military Merit” and “B.J. McNamara Dec. 9, 1943.”
"I picked it up — I knew exactly what it was. I knew 'cause my father has one,” Ridlon told WBCS.
Ridlon said he put the medal away and completely forgot about it until he recently rediscovered it and knew he had to return in to its rightful owner.
Ridlon contacted a friend at the Blauvelt American Legion in Nyack, a veteran’s organization, and a search was underway for the Purple Heart recipient.
A local historian searched thoroughly to no avail, having found several soldiers with the same initials who’d served in World War II.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer’s office then began helping with the search and were able to track down a Bernard J. McNamara, born on Sept. 24, 1909.
McNamara lived in the Bronx. In April 1942, McNamara enlisted at Fort Jay Governors Island. His enlistment was for the duration of World War II.
On Dec. 9, 1943, McNamara was injured as result of German artillery fires during a defensive stand at Monte Sammurco, and was subsequently awarded a Purple Heart.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported him as being at Stalag 3B near Fuerstenberg, Prussia, where more than 4,000 other American prisoners of war were held, in January 1944.
He was captured by Nazi Germany while serving in Italy, and imprisoned for at least 472 days.
McNamara died in 1975 and Schumer’s office was able to track down his next of kin.
On Sunday, Sen. Schumer presented the medal to McNamara’s son, Brian; daughter, Catherine; grandson, Matthew; and granddaughter, Christine.
"It’s overwhelming." said McNamara's son, Brian, a Bronx man who served in Vietnam, told Lohud.com. "We say in the Army we never forget our buddies. You never leave them behind, and this is just proof of that."
The Purple Heart had reportedly been lost after McNamara’s wife had pinned the medal on one of the children and let them play outside.
“It is a privilege and an honor to return this Purple Heart to the family of decorated World War II veteran, Bernard J. McNamara,” Sen. Schumer said during the presentation. “McNamara was a true American hero and put his life on the line to serve this country. It’s unfortunate that the medal has gone missing for so long but I am humbled to have the opportunity to present it to the McNamara family.”