Purple Heart at Flea Market Leads to Quest for Owner
Matt Carlson guides medal from Arizona to Oklahoma
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Nov 11, 2013 2:01 PM CST
A Purple Heart turned up at an Arizona flea market.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A Vietnam veteran was at a flea market in Glendale, Ariz., early this year when he noticed an unusual item for sale: a Purple Heart medal, going for $40. Matt Carlson knew what he had to do. "If I lost something like that, I would want my family to have it back," he tells the Arizona Republic, adding, per CNN, that he wouldn't want to "see it hanging on the shirt of some kid going to a rave party." But the only clues to its origin were a name on the back—Clarence M. Merriott—and a pair of papers tucked in its box that gave his date of death (June 19, 1944) and hometown (Stilwell, Okla.).

An Internet search revealed that Merriott was a member of the 300th Combat Engineers, a World War II battalion. He died in 1944 when the ship he was on hit an enemy mine off Normandy. But a group continues to preserve that battalion's memory, and members offered to help Carlson, as did a veteran from the battalion and his congressman grandson, and as did a historical society in Stilwell. The society tracked down a photo as well as some of Merriott's relatives; turns out the medal was lost in a move. Now, per the family's wishes, it's headed to the historical society for display; it will be at the center of a ceremony today, the Republic reports. "I helped him find his way home," Carlson says of Merriott.