MONTPELIER, Vt. — An Arizona man whose father was killed during World War II fighting on the island of Iwo Jima received the Purple Heart medal Friday that his father earned almost 70 years ago.
Harold Andreason, of Phoenix, accepted the medal on behalf of his father — U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. George Harold Andreason, a 22-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, who was killed in action on March 12, 1945, on the Pacific island.
Held on the Lake Champlain waterfront in Burlington, the ceremony was organized by the group Purple Hearts Reunited, founded by Zachariah Fike.
Afterward, Andreason was effusive in his praise and gratitude for the group and Fike, who contacted Andreason months ago to tell him the medal had been found by a man in Oregon and turned over to Purple Hearts Reunited.
“The whole thing is eerie,” Andreason recalled earlier. “Nobody knew my dad.”
But Andreason, a 72-year-old only child with only one surviving close relative outside his immediate family, said it turned out to be a good eerie.
“My kids they are elated. They cannot believe something like this is happening,” Andreason, a retired phone company worker, said before the medal ceremony.
Fike said George Andreason’s Purple Heart was found by the Oregon man in the effects of his father. It’s unclear how the man got the medal, but it was turned over to Purple Hearts Reunited.
Fike, who lives in Georgia, an hour’s drive northwest of Montpelier, said he began trying to find the rightful owners of, or the descendants of, military medals in 2009. Since then the organization has returned more than 100 medals, and it’s trying to find the rightful owners of hundreds more.
The group was just recognized as a nonprofit organization, and Fike is getting ready to hire its first full-time employee.
Harold Andreason and his wife are touring the country in a recreational vehicle. They’d never been to Vermont, but they worked it out with Fike to receive the medal during their visit.
Harold Andreason served three years in the Army during the 1960s but is quick to point out he did not fight in Vietnam. He said the recognition on behalf of his father was prompting him to get involved with an organization at his Phoenix church that works with veterans and serves military personnel and their families.