CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. -- The Purple Heart is earned by veterans who are either hurt or killed in combat – it's a medal military men and women hold near and dear their hearts.
The Purple Heart was awarded to Staff Sgt Robert Capper in 1944 after he was injured while serving in War World II, and it's a medal his brother John J. Capper Jr. thought he'd never see again.
Staff Sgt Capper, who passed away in 2001, was just 18 years old when he enlisted in the U.S Army Air Corp.
"He tried to encourage us that everything was fine," said John Capper.
He was stationed in Italy during the war as a tail gunner on a B17 bomber.
"You know when you see these young fellas and you see what they had to go through, plus young fellows today you had no idea back here in the U.S., what it's like, they are really something," Capper said.
Staff Sgt Capper's 35th mission is accounted in a war diary -- his aircraft was shot down by the Germans on October 20th, 1944.
"I think he got it when they were shot down and crashed into the Adriatic Sea," said Capper.
Staff Sgt Capper survived the crash but was injured, receiving the Purple Heart.
"When he came back he said every time he stepped into that B17 he was scared stiff," Capper added.
After the war Staff Sgt Capper moved away from the area. All that time, John held on to this picture of his brother in uniform tucked away in his wallet to remind him of his brother's bravery.
"Yeah, he was an American and a patriot and a hero, that's why," added Capper.
John never saw the Purple Heart and that after his brother died, he says he didn't know what happened to it.
"I thought they were gone," Capper said.
Seven decades later, Captain Zacariah Fike came across SSG Capper's Purple Heart.
"To see something that belonged to a veteran abandoned just breaks my heart," said Captain Fike. "These men gave everything for us. A lot of them gave their lives. We as Americans forget about that sacrifice."
A Purple Heart recipient himself, Capt. Fike has made it a mission to reunite lost Purple Hearts with American heroes and their families.
"They sacrificed years of their life," Capt. Fike said.
According to Capt Fike, SSG Capper's Purple Heart was located through a woman living in Utah, who found the medal among a few old items she had come across. She contacted Captain Fike right away and sent him the medal.
Wednesday, April 16 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-04-17 03:08:32 GMT
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