Found: 2015 Returned: 24 August 2015 Location: Nixa, MO
CPL Edward C. Olsen was killed in World War II in 1944, by an enemy sniper. His family had no idea where his Purple Heart was, until they received word from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Purple Hearts Reunited that they would be receiving it, during a special ceremony in Missouri on August 24, 2015. MOPH Regional Commander Everett Kelly returned the long-lost medal, with the help of Purple Hearts Reunited.
Read more about this story below, in the words of Hanna Smith of the Christian County Headliner (full article here).
Iris Jones fought tears as she laid eyes on the Purple Heart medal belonging to her uncle, Edward C. Olsen, for the first time Aug. 24.
“This is just so special,” she said. “Thank you all.”
Numerous Purple Heart members, family and friends gathered at Nixa City Hall to watch as Region II Commander Everett Kelly placed the medal in Jones’ hands. It was a special moment — one that was 71 years in the making.
The medal had been lost for many years and it was a Springfield family renovating their home who first came across Olsen’s Purple Heart.
They brought the medal to Purple Heart Post 621 where members were gathered for their monthly breakfast and gave it to the cook.
Kelly and Chapter 621 Commander Paul Weeks were eating breakfast when the cook showed them the discovery.
“He told us about the medal and we were just eating breakfast,” Weeks said with a laugh.
Olsen’s name was inscribed on the back of the medal and was accompanied by a letter for his father, Chris. L Olsen, breaking the news of his death.
Kelly immediately jumped on the task of searching down anyone related to Olsen so the medal could be returned to his family.
He contacted his hometown newspaper and Nixa Enterprise’s sister paper, Buffalo Reflex, and published a story about his search.
That’s when Linda Jensen joined the team. Jensen, a military wife and genealogist, was eager to offer her skills. Soon, Jensen had located Jones who she was certain was a relative of Olsen.
Jensen said she labored over the email she sent to Jones, knowing what an amazing moment the realization would be.
However, when Jones received Jensen’s email, she thought it was a scam. The discovery of her uncle’s long-lost medal was too good to be true.
“When I first saw her email, I thought it was a scam,” Jones said. “I called my son who said he knew (Kelly) and he called and said it was legitimate and we contacted everybody.”
Jones said she never knew her uncle very well, but remembered him as a quiet and kind man. Her mother — his older sister — half raised Olsen. However, he later moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“I knew him,” Jones said. “He lived in Colorado so I didn’t see him a lot. He was a real quiet person, although his family thought he was perfect. He was a very nice young man.”
Olsen enlisted out of Colorado and ultimately became a sniper.
In 1944, his family received word that he was killed by an enemy sniper.
Meeting the prerequisites of shedding blood or being killed by the enemy on the battlefield, Olsen was honored with the Purple Heart.
After so many years, seeing the hero’s family holding the medal was worth every effort along the way, Jensen said.
“The Purple Heart is given for the ultimate sacrifice,” Jensen said. “It’s the one medal my husband is not allowed to have. It’s important to have given it back to (Olsen’s) family.”