Valor Research

These members represent The Chicago Genealogical Society and Genealogy Interest Group of the St. Andrew Society of Illinois. We recently recognized their incredible volunteer efforts and dedication to our mission by presenting each with a flag made by our friends at Flags of Valor.

While finding Purple Hearts and rescuing them is a daunting task, it is only the beginning for our team. Once we re-acquire the lost medal, Purple Hearts Reunited spends a considerable amount of time researching and locating the original recipient or family to ensure this high honor is returned to its rightful owner.

We understand how important these medals are to their recipients and their families because we ourselves have lived this; everyone on our team is entrenched in the military life either because we serve or have a loved one that did.

Because of this, when we find or receive a lost Purple Heart or other medal, we scour through hundreds of records to find the owner or their family. The search can take anywhere from minutes to more than a year, depending on the amount of family information available.

Whenever we have more information about the Purple Heart itself, such as names, past residences, year of birth, and detailed circumstances on where and how the medal was found, the easier it is for us to find the rightful owner.


Marsha Peterson

Director of Valor Research

Marsha is a teacher and lecturer in all levels of genealogy for over 15 years at Chicago’s Newberry Library plus a great many societies and public libraries. She is author of the Fundamentals of Genealogy® textbook series. She’s also a Valor Research region director for Purple Hearts Reunited’s (PHR) “WWI 100th Anniversary Tribute Project,” currently managing a team of about 30 volunteer researchers, primarily from The Chicago Genealogical Society where she is a board member. Marsha was inspired to begin working together with PHR in 2012 when JPAC (the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) repatriated the remains of her first cousin once removed, 2LT Dwight Dale Ekstam a USMC co-pilot in WWII, from a mountain top crash in the South Pacific where he was KIA 68 years earlier. She feels honored to pay this tremendous debt forward, understanding at a deep personal level what it means to a family to be reunited with this precious purple heart, and pass it down to future generations, keeping it in the family where it belongs forever. Marsha is retired from one of the nation’s largest commercial real estate development firms. She lives with her family in Evanston, Illinois and is a prolific knitter and aspiring jazz singer.