For Immediate Release
Rutherfordton, NC - January 11, 2013
North Carolina WWII Hero Reunited with His Lost Purple Heart Medal After 70 Years
On 20 Jan 2013, at 2:00 PM CPT Zachariah Fike, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited and Assistant Americanism Officer for the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), will conduct a ceremony to return a lost Purple Heart medal to WWII veteran, CPL George D. Hemphill. He will be assisted by The State Commander and Patriots from the North Carolina Department of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The ceremony will take place at the Rutherfordton Community Center, 219 Gilkey School Road, Rutherfordton, NC 28139.
Corporal George D. Hemphill , was born on 2 November, 1922. He enlisted in the US Army in 1944 and served during WWII as a Infantryman in Company C, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division with service in Northern France and Germany. He was wounded on 11 September 1944 in France, when shrapnel from enemy Sniper Fire left him partially blinded for three weeks. He would later make a full recovery and was discharged on 12 March 1946. Later in his life, there was a wreck in which a gasoline tanker was hit by a train in 1954. Mr. Hemphill ran in and tried to retrieve the driver, but the gasoline exploded before he was successful. He spent more than a year in the hospital from the burns and retains the scars today, but his regret was he couldn't get the driver out. Hero then, hero now, hero forever.
Hemphill’s Purple Heart medal was discovered in 2000 by Mr. Bob Blum, also a veteran, in a Columbia, SC antique shop as he was killing time with his brother while waiting for a meeting. As they browsed the shop, he spotted the medal and paid the owner $70.00 for it, knowing that the medal didn't belong there. Over the next few months, he tried to research and locate the original recipient with no luck. Then a close friend, Mr. Paul Marquis, himself a Purple Heart recipient for wounds received in 1968 in Khe Sanh, Vietnam, read a story about CPT Zachariah Fike, an active duty member of the Vermont National Guard, who founded “Purple Hearts Reunited” two years ago. CPT Fike purchases or receives lost or stolen Purple Heart medals and locates the closest family member so that he can return the medal to them. After Marquis contacted Fike by email, he put Fike and Blum in touch and, together, they were finally able to track down the family of George Hemphill. According to the family, after Mr. Hemphill was wounded, he had sent the medal home to his mother, as he was afraid he was going to lose it. For some reason, the medal was lost in the mail and never arrived. Nor did Mr. Hemphill ever think to seek a replacement. Luckily, it turned up in 2000 in the hands of a patriotic veteran.
For Fike, this will be a very special ceremony for two reasons – this will be the first time he will be able to return a Purple Heart medal to a living Veteran. There is also a special twist to the story; Fike himself was wounded on the same day as Hemphill, 11 September, 1944 for Hemphill and 2010 for Fike. Mr. Hemphill will not only receive his Purple Heart back, but Fike discovered that he had been awarded a Bronze Star that he was entitled to and never received. At this ceremony Hemphill will also receive a Combat Infantryman Badge, European African Middle Eastern Medal w/ 3 Combat Stars, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Theater Service Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all combat wounded veterans and active duty men and women who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, through veteran service, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance. Through the VAVS Program, MOPH volunteers selflessly provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA medical facilities and State Veterans Homes.
For additional information or to donate to Purple Hearts Reunited, contact or information contact:
Captain Zachariah Fike
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
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