BAKERSFIELD, CA - A lost Purple Heart medal is headed back to its rightful owner. It was found in a Tulare pawn shop six years ago. Next week, it will be given to the family of the veteran who earned it.
It's all thanks to the work of archiving students at Bakersfield High School who tracked down the family in a matter of days.
"A dear friend of mine found it in Tulare," said Andy Wahrenbrock, a veteran.
According to Wahrenbrock, someone found it in a dumpster and sold it to the pawn shop. The shop then sold it to his friend, a veteran from Kern County.
"He bought it from them and brought it back to Bakersfield to see what we could do with it," said Wahrenbrock.
For years, it sat in a drawer until Ken Hooper and his BHS archiving class got involved.
Having located the family of another lost Purple Heart recipient, the class took on the challenge with one clue on the back of the medal.
"Just his name and that he was in the military, that's about all I had," said Jenna Sims, a senior at Bakersfield High School.
Jenna Sims found out the medal belonged to Private First Class Norval A. Monroe.
By the end of the day, the students knew a lot about him. According to records, Monroe was a World War II Army infantry man who died in France in 1944. In 1948, he was laid to rest in a Tulare County cemetery so students hoped he still had family in the area.
"To track down his family took the longest part of it," said Sims.
Eventually, the students found Monroe's niece living in Visalia, Susanne Monroe.
"You know I was dumb-founded," said Monroe. "We knew that the Purple Heart was missing and it had been missing for ten years, and it was just out of the blue that this call comes in and says that they found the Purple Heart."
"It makes me happy that I can get back something that is important to their family," said Sims.
The Purple Heart will be given to Monroe's niece on May 7th at 3 p.m. at the Kern Veterans Memorial Wall of Valor in Bakersfield.
The public is invited to attend.