Purple Hearts Reunited returned a Purple Heart to Erin Heidecker of Pittsburgh, PA, just in time for Veterans Day 2014. The medal belonged to her grandfather, SSG John Mackanos, a World War II veteran, and was given to her before he died in 2009. The medal is very significant to Heidecker, and she was honored to have it back in her possession.

John Mackanos was born on 13 JUN 1920 in Hanna’s Town, PA to George and Elizabeth Popsum Mackanos. He worked as a miner before World War II, and enlisted to serve on 17 FEB 1941. Mackanos served as a Military Policeman with Company D, 769th Military Police Battalion during the war, and saw action at Normandy, as well as other parts of northern France and Belgium. For his service and injuries, SSG John Mackanos was awarded the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, the American Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal. He survived the war and returned to the United States of America on 05 MAR 1945. On 25 MAR 2009, Mackanos passed away.

The Purple Heart medal belonging to John Mackanos was found in Riverview Park in Pittsburgh, PA by Mrs. Jamie Toth and her husband, while jogging. Heidecker, who had the medal in her possession, said she runs in the same park, and her vehicle had been broken into there. The Toths, unaware of who might have owned the medal, reached out to Purple Hearts Reunited on 11 FEB 2013. Mr. Toth’s grandfather, a World War II soldier, was killed at Normandy in June of 1944, and he recognized the importance of finding the rightful owner of the Purple Heart. Though the medal was badly damaged, perhaps having encountered a snow blower or mower, John Mackanos’ full name was legible.

Purple Hearts Reunited was able to locate Heidecker, John Mackanos’ granddaughter, and returned the medal to her by mail in time for Veterans Day in 2014.

More information on this story is available here. The story also aired on Essential Pittsburgh (NPR radio), with more information about Purple Hearts Reunited. Listen to the interview with Zac Fike here.

This return was generously sponsored by Merchants Bank of Vermont.