More To The Story with Staley: Lost Purple Heart
Dave shares the story of how a lost Purple Heart Medal from WWII has been found again
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – It’s a number of students gathering at Hickory Valley Christian School here in Chattanooga.
Listening and learning. Hope Goodwin is doing the talking. She’s 76 years old. Living in Lenoir City.
Hope is talking about World War Two. And showing them what a Purple Heart looks like.
That Purple Heart was awarded to a man who lies here in the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Hull Hope Harris Jr. was in the Marine Corps. Private First Class. Serving in World War Two.
Harris was wounded in the Pacific Theater, fighting in the Marshall Islands. But after receiving his Purple Heart, he, well, lost it.
Harris died back in 1968 at the age of 45. Nobody knew where it was.
But then, several years ago, the Purple Heart inexplicably was given by a coworker to one of the school’s teachers, Kelly Nichols.
Nichols had no idea who the award belonged to. But she was determined to find out. Despite the roadblocks, Nichols kept digging.
KELLY NICHOLS, LIBRARIAN/ART TEACHER;
“I kept hitting a dead end. Then I’d put it in my basket on my desk and then pull it out in a few months. I’d try again. Another dead end. I simply grew attached to the medal. I wanted to see the story to the end.”
Then earlier this year, Nichols finally hit paydirt. With the help of folks such as Jerry Wells, a parent of one of the school children, they found the burial cemetery. Then Hull’s wife’s name. Then daughter Hope Goodwin.
Nichols first message with Hope was life changing.
KELLY NICHOLS, LIBRARIAN / ART TEACHER;
“Was your father Hull Hope Harris Junior? She responded quickly. ‘Yes.’ That’s when I knew we had her. I said that this is going to be strange, but I believe I have his Purple Heart on my desk. And we’ve been trying to get it back to your family.”
HOPE GOODWIN, HULL’S DAUGHTER;
“The emotion was excitement. I was very excited. Very thankful. I couldn’t wait to tell the kids.”
Hope immediately made the trek to Chattanooga, picking up the award at the school. Showing it to the kids. Answering questions about the war. And her father. The youngsters even made cards for her.
Hope wanted everybody to experience the happy ending. After a very long voyage.
“I finally have something of my Dad’s. Back in my hands. There’s not a lot of things in my family that has made the journey over the years. I don’t have much of his, so it’s a treasure beyond words. He would be thrilled that his grandchildren would get to see it. And learn more about him.”
So Hull Hope Harris Junior, thank you for your service. Continue to rest in peace Marine. Even rest a bit easier. Because your Purple Heart……..is home.
Dave Staley, News 12 Now