Bakersfield woman leads mission to reunite Purple Heart medal with family of late World War II veteran

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Bakersfield woman is on a mission to reunite a Purple Heart medal with the family of a late World War II veteran who passed away more than 50 years ago.

Clarence Vernie Hawksley served as a U.S. Army captain for the 382nd Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division from 1942-1946, but decades later the the Purple Heart Medal awarded to him during his service is not in his family’s possession. Bakersfield’s very own Karen Galyan is doing all she can to change that.

“It needs to go home,” she said of the purple heart, a United States military medal awarded to men and women wounded or killed in service.

Someone found the medal in Bakersfield in early February at the intersection of 8th and T Streets and turned it in to the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery. Galyan immediately took the lead to get the medal back to its owner.

“A true hero,” Galyan said. “[The medal] needs to go to the family.”

Official documents obtained by Galyan show Hawksley was born in 1917 in Maine. During his service, he received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Havin survived the war, he died in 1963 and is buried at Bridgeport cemetery in Mono County.

Karen Galyan of Bakersfield holds the Purple Heart medal of the late World War II veteran Clarence Vernie Hawksley.

Now the focus turns to finding Hawksley’s living relatives. Records show his wife passed away several years ago. His daughter, Deborah Lee Hawksley, herself a former veteran, died in 2012 and was buried at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

Galyan found contact information for someone with the Hawksley last name, but she did not hear back as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday. A Goldstar mother, Galyan has endured the pain of losing her own son LCpl David Cole Lang. He fought for this nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Thursday would have been his 37th birthday. In honor of her son, Galyan said she will work as hard as she can to reunite this purple heart with its rightful owner.

“I cannot think of a better gift that Cole handed me for his birthday. Normally a Goldstar mom is curled up in bed for their hero’s birthday. My heart could not be fuller because a hero went home and this heart needs to go home.”

Anyone with information about living relatives is asked to reach out to Eytan Wallace or Karen Galyan on Facebook. To reach out to Wallace, click here. To reach out to Galyan, click here.

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