BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Bakersfield woman’s mission to reunite a lost Purple Heart medal with the family of a late World War II veteran has proven successful.
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 did all she can to change that.
“It needs to go home,” she said last week 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 January at the intersection of 8th and T Streets, and turned it in to the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery. Galyan immediately led the effort to get the medal back to its owner.
Hawksley died in 1963, and his wife and only daughter passed away several years later. However, following a weeks-long search, Galyan found a living relative.
“This purple heart is finally going home and we will have mission complete,” Galyan said with excitement after she successfully located Hawksley’s granddaughter Laura Garrod, a resident of Bullhead City, AZ.
“I was shocked. I was shocked to learn it was found,” Garrod said, stating she believes someone broke into her half brother’s truck in Kern County five years ago and stole the medal.
Garrod said she and her family are filled with gratitude to learn the medal will soon be in her possession. “I’m very grateful. The family is very grateful to hear it is coming back to the family. We’re so pleased.”
She she’s also expressed gratitude to Galyan for her efforts. Galyan, a Goldstar mother who has endured the pain of losing her own son LCpl David Cole Lang David Cole Lang, said her son would be proud.
“My heart was very sad. My son jumped into my heart and said ‘oh no mom, we’re going to have a mission. I’m going to land a purple heart into your hands and we’re going to get it home.'”
Galyan plans to present relatives with the Purple Heart as part of a larger ceremony at 9 a.m. on March 29 — National Vietnam War Veteran’s Day — at the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery.