A long-lost Purple Heart medal discovered recently in a West Texas dumpster is going back where it belongs – the Fort Worth family of the World War II soldier to whom it was presented.
It's unclear how the medal ended up in the trash in Midland, but someone found it recently and turned it over to Gary Kennedy, a veteran himself who understands its significance.
"Somebody worked hard for this," Kennedy said.
He wanted to return it but didn't know where to begin.
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All he had to go on was the name engraved on the medal: Jim C. Carter.
"We just need to find the missing piece of the puzzle," he told KWES-TV in Midland.
After the station reported on his search, tips poured in.
Kennedy discovered Jim C. Carter was a World War II veteran – and was buried right there in Midland.
"We want to be able to give this back to the family, so that way they can have it and still cherish these stories," Kennedy said.
His search led to Fort Worth and Jim C. Carter's nephew, Tommy Carter, of Fort Worth.
"He called and said, 'Are you Tommy Carter? Are you related to Jim Carter?' And I said, 'Yeah, he's my uncle,'" Tommy Carter said.
Tommy Carter knew his uncle served in World War II and became a barber in Midland.
But the nephew had no idea his uncle had been awarded the Purple Heart.
"No, see, my uncle and my dad never talked that much about the war at all," he said.
Kennedy said he will give Tommy Carter his uncle's medal next week. They plan to meet in Abilene, about halfway between Fort Worth and Midland.
"It's going to be fantastic. It really is, an honor," Tommy Carter said. "It stands for my uncle and my dad and others who risked their lives and lost their lives for our freedom. That's what it stands for."
Tommy Carter's wife, Nancy, said it's all a welcome surprise.
"It's a shame it ended up in a dumpster," she said. "But it ended up a miracle."
Tommy Carter says his uncle was shot in the leg while serving in the infantry. Jim Carter died in 1982 in Midland.