Avoca man presented with brother's Purple Heart decades after it was stolen

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FULDA – The family of a Veteran killed in action during the Korean War was presented with a Purple Heart Medal thought to be lost for nearly six decades. Commissioner Larry Shellito with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs presented the medal to William Johnson of Avoca during a special ceremony at Fort Snelling Wednesday.

The medal had been awarded to his brother George Johnson, who died July 28, 1950 in the Battle of Hwanggan. George was 17 years old when he died. His remains were returned to Fulda for the burial, and his parents presented with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. The medals were later stolen during a burglary of the shop Johnson’s father owned.

Last year the Purple Heart resurfaced in box of “junk” on a farm in Otsego, purchased by Mark and Kristen Kasper. The only identifier on the medal was an engraving of the name “George J. Johnson.” The Kasper’s contacted the American Legion, who passed the medal to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. With help from the Totzke Funeral Home, officials at MDVA tracked down Johnson’s family to inform them of the recovery. Although Johnson’s parents are both deceased, Bill Johnson was present to accept the medal at the ceremony.

More than a half century has passed since his brother's death, but to Bill, the return of the stolen medal brought his legacy back to life. George was a young man when he died, Bill said, but served his country well, something of which he is very proud.

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