Fallen World War II soldier's lost Purple Heart reunited with family

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A World War II veteran's lost Purple Heart has been reunited with his nephew.

Purple Hearts United, a non-profit group dedicated to returning medals of valor to veterans and their families, presented the medal Saturday to Cpl. Edward J. Ryan's nephew, Kirt.

Ryan was killed on March 27, 1945, in the Netherlands when an artillery shell hit his tank, two weeks after his 22nd birthday. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

The medal was found 76 years later in a hidden compartment in a metal box 20 miles from Ryan's home in Minnesota, organization representatives said.

The person who found it contacted the Purple Hearts Reunited group to help connect with family members.

"Without you guys taking the effort to find these guys, I'd never have this back for my family," Kirt said. "So it means a lot to me. It means a lot to my whole family, so thank you."

The Purple Heart is a decoration awarded on behalf of the President of the United States to members of the military who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty. It's the oldest award given in the armed forces and has been in circulation since 1932.

It's estimated that more than 2,000,000 Purple Heart medals have been given since then.

Ryan was among the more than 1,000,000 recipients from World War II.
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