Lifestyle & Human Interest

Goodwill Employee Finds Purple Heart in Box of Donations, Knows They Must Find Seaman's Family


You never know when or where you might stumble upon something of high value. Thrift stores, yard sales and antique shops are popular destinations for that very reason. Along with all the intended donations, it’s easy to accidentally donate something meaningful or expensive.

Thankfully, a compassionate Goodwill employee noticed this item’s worth before it could be placed on a store shelf.

The Goodwill associate at a thrift store location in Tucson, Arizona, was organizing donated housewares when she came across a Purple Heart medal. She realized the medal, given to those wounded or killed in military service, likely held great sentimental value. The Purple Heart was engraved “Nick D’Amelio, Jr., S2C, USN.”

Partnering with nonprofit organization Purple Hearts Reunited, Goodwill took to social media to find the medal’s owner.

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“Please help us find the family of this hero!” the Facebook post read. “This Purple Heart was donated to our store on Houghton & Golf Links around mid-June.”

The organization determined that the Purple Heart was awarded to a seaman second class, who served in the US Navy during World War II. D’Amelio was declared missing in action following the sinking of the USS Little on September 5, 1942.

Judith Roman Bucasas, director of marketing for Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona, wanted to see the Purple Heart returned. The medal is an incredible honor and the oldest military award in U.S. history.

“It’s important that we get it to the right family,” Bucasas told CNN. “This guy didn’t get to make it back home.”

Strangers reached out to help locate D’Amelio’s family. Finally, the message reached Doug Hanna, D’Amelio’s great-nephew.

Hanna instantly recognized the Purple Heart. His late sister, Louise, often carried the medal with her.

“Louise was spiritual and believed her brothers and husband were close to her in her final days,” Hanna said. “This medal and the numbers ‘954’ brought her comfort.”

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Hanna believes the donation was certainly an accident. The family likely placed it in a box as they organized Louise’s housewares.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers, the Purple Heart was successfully delivered to the seaman’s family.

“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.

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Noel Marquis is a journalist and animal-lover hailing from the Midwest. After an internship with Disney following her college graduation, she pursued a career writing content that makes readers smile. Coffee, books and superhero movies are some of her favorite things.