Purple Hearts Reunited return medal to Oconto County family of WWI soldier

Purple Heart returns to family of WWI soldier
Purple Heart returns to family of WWI soldier(WBAY)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 6:21 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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LENA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Purple Heart awarded to a World War I soldier, returns to his great nephew in Lena.

78-year-old Jake Neta, Vietnam Veteran, U.S. Army, received his great uncles purple heart at the “return ceremony” on Friday.

PFC John Francis “Dutch” Hansel of Medford Wi., served in the 32nd Infantry Division when he was wounded in World War I.

His Purple Heart Medal and World War I Victory Medal was found in someone else’s home when they were moving out.

“I was kind of surprised because I had no knowledge of my great uncle being in the service,” said Neta.

Hansel’s medals were then given to Purple Hearts Reunited, a non-profit foundation that has returned 850 medals, either lost or stolen, to their rightful families.

“Our organization did the research and found out that family members were in the area here and therefore we came out today to return the medal,” said Michael Brennan, Valor Guard for Purple Hearts Reunited.

Neta said he never met his great uncle and learned about his service for the first time during the return ceremony.

“I didn’t know the man, but I can honor the man,” said Neta.

Brennan said the organization travels throughout the country to reunite medals of valor to family members, who most of the time have never met them, to tell them about their service and sacrifice.

“This specific Purple Heart return is one of the few that we do that is actually from World War I,” said Brennan.

Neta said it has been a special experience learning about his great uncle and his service in World War I, especially knowing that serving in the military runs in their family, “It makes me very proud that, that blood runs in me.”

If you’d like to donate to Purple Hearts Reunited and help their mission, click here.

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