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Purple Heart found at a Tucson Goodwill returned to family

Posted at 3:59 PM, Jul 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-15 18:14:33-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - A Purple Heart medal that was found at a Tucson Goodwill was reunited with family on Friday. A nationwide search ended right where it started.

When Donna Laudonio first saw the story earlier this week, she had no idea she would be a part of it.

"I was saying to myself, 'Aw, I feel so bad for that family that lost the medal," Laudonio said. "Shortly thereafter, I found out it was us."

The Purple Heart was awarded to U.S. Navy Seaman Nick D'Amelio Jr., who served in World War II. Laudonio, who lives in Tucson, is D'Amelio's niece.

D'Amelio served on the USS Little. In 1942, he was lost at sea, after Japanese warships attacked his ship, near Guadalcanal.

It was Goodwill employee, Talon Mills, who found the Purple Heart. But more importantly, the family says, he knew the importance of the award, and that it should be returned to its rightful owner.

Mills had the honor of presenting the medal to D'Amelio's family, alongside Senator Martha McSally. Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit organization, and Blackhorse Investigations helped track down the family.

"To see the family so happy, I think is the biggest reward for me," Mills said. "And to be a part of that happening -- to make someone happy like that -- that makes me happy."

Laudonio isn't sure how the medal ended up at Goodwill in the first place, but the timing of it being found is special. Her granddaughter, Mia, who is D'Amelio's great-grandniece, just signed with the Air Force.

"It just highlights the fact that, we will feel like my Uncle Nicky came home," Laudonio said. "When he never really had a chance to come home the first time."

D'Amelio is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines.

In 2016, a Purple Heart awarded to Airman Frederick J. Delahunt was found at the same Goodwill store, on Golf Links and Houghton. It was returned to family in Missouri.