Purple Hearts Reunited returns medal to Oconto County family of World War I soldier

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LENA, Wis. (WBAY) – The Purple Heart awarded to a soldier in World War I goes to his grandnephew in Lena.

Jake Neta, 78, Vietnam veteran, US Army, received the purple heart from his great uncles on Friday during the “homecoming ceremony”.

PFC John Francis “Dutch” Hansel of Medford Wi. Served in the 32nd Infantry Division when wounded in World War I.

His Purple Heart Medal and WWI Victory Medal were found in someone else’s house while he was moving house.

“I was a little surprised because I didn’t know my great-uncle was in the service,” Neta said.

Hansel’s medals were then presented to Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit foundation that returned 850 medals, lost or stolen, to their rightful families.

“Our organization did the research and found family members were in the area here so we went out today to return the medal,” said Michael Brennan, Valor Guard for Purple Hearts Reunited.

Neta said he had never met his great-uncle and discovered his service for the first time during the homecoming ceremony.

“I didn’t know the man, but I can honor the man,” Neta said.

Brennan said the organization was traveling across the country to collect medals of bravery from family members, who most of the time had never met them, to tell them about their service and sacrifice.

“This specific Purple Heart comeback is one of the few we do that dates back to World War I,” said Brennan.

Neta said it had been a special experience to learn about his great-uncle and his service in WWI, especially knowing that serving in the military was in their family, “It makes me very proud that this blood is flowing through me. ”

If you would like to donate to Purple Hearts Reunited and help their mission, click here.

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