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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – One of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces is the Purple Heart, earned by those wounded or killed during service.

One of those iconic medals, lost for decades, has a new home, thanks to five strangers coming together with a common goal.

The journey started with spring cleaning.

Hokes-Bluff native Lisa Abel found it in a box of her late husband’s belongings. He’d never served in the military, so its origin was a mystery.

“I found that and I thought, oh man, what an honor this is. You need to find this person!” Abel said.

Abel’s only lead was a name written inside the box, Jimmy Morgan. She turned to social media for help. Her Facebook post caught the attention of the Birmingham VA’s office. It reached out to several national organizations with no luck.

“Our next step was, we start locally. We reached out to a military order of the Purple Heart. They gave us more information because they had the contact information for Purple Hearts Reunited, and that’s where the ball started really rolling, Smith said.

That led to Zachariah Fike. The group Purple Hearts Reunited works to find the owners of lost medals by studying the medals themselves.

“The ribbons that were on the side of it, particularly Pacific Campaign Medal with an arrowhead, which means he was essentially one of the first units to invade the Philippines, so that told me basically I was looking for a veteran who served during that time period,” Fike said.

With that clue and a name came a breakthrough.

“He was wounded in the Philippines. Once I was able to narrow down his name and his home town, it kind of started to fall together, the pieces of the puzzle, because essentially he was from about 10 minutes from where the medal was found,” Fike said.

But a reunion between man and medal wasn’t meant to be. Morgan died in the 1970’s, never had children, and had no surviving close family members.

That’s when Fike found Pam Prochnow in Brownsboro.

“They had traced it to me. He was my great uncle,” Prochnow said.

Morgan is her grandmother’s brother. Pam had no idea her great uncle was awarded a Purple Heart. She got emotional as we looked through old family photos together.

“Probably because of the no children they had to be passed down as heirlooms to them. So I’m just glad that I have this,” Prochnow said.

Prochnow has no children herself, so she found a way to keep it from becoming hidden again. She’s sharing it from becoming hidden again. She’s sharing it with everyone at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library.

“A purple heart carries a lot of weight, it means that a Veteran was wounded or killed in action,” Library Special Collections Manager Heather Adkins. “By the family choosing the library, they basically said ‘we trust that you can tell the history of this artifact and you can tell the history of this veteran and that’s what we’re trying to do,” she said.

One small medal with a long story, connecting five strangers, is now on display for generations to come.