The family of a Veteran killed in action during the Korean War was presented with a Purple Heart Medal thought to be lost for decades. Commissioner Larry Shellito with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs presented the medal to family members during a small ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 1 p.m.
George J. Johnson died July 28, 1950 in the Battle of Hwanggan. He was only 17 years old at the time of his death. His remains were returned to Fulda, Minn. for burial, and his parents were presented with a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal for his bravery. The medals were later stolen, however, during a burglary of the shop Johnson’s father owned.
Last year the Purple Heart resurfaced in box of “junk” on a farm in Otsego, purchased by Mark and Kristen Kasper. The only identifier on the medal was an engraving of the name “George J. Johnson.” The Kasper’s contacted Al Zdon with the American Legion, who passed the medal to MDVA. With help from the Totzke Funeral Home officials at MDVA tracked down Johnson’s family to inform them of the recovery. Although Johnson’s parents are both deceased, his brother William Johnson was present to accept the medal at the ceremony.
“I’m very surprised, and I want to thank all those involved. Getting this together and having it take place, I feel its back in the right hands now. It is amazing this could happen,” said William.
“Often times those things, especially when a person is killed, can be one of the few items a family has left of their loved one,” said Brad Lindsey, Senior Director of Programs and Services for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. “So, it was just an honor to get that back to him – returning it where it belongs.”