Captain Zachariah Fike is an Army National Guardsman on a special mission.
He finds Purple Heart medals for sale in antique stores and on the internet, buys them, tracks down their rightful owners, and returns them.
So far, he has reunited five families with lost medals.
The first one belonged to Corrado Piccoli, an Army translator who was killed in Europe during World War II.
At StoryCorps Captain Fike and that soldier’s sister, Adeline Rockko, remembered their first conversation.
Click here for the transcript.
Zachariah Fike (ZF): "What antique shop? Who are you?" She was very stern.
AR: After the conversation ended, I walked away from the phone and I says, “Oh my god, he’s so nice and he’s returning our medal and I treated him this way?” So I called you right back again, and apologized and thanked you then.
Now this medal was very precious to my parents. And, on special occasions, they’d take it out and let us touch it and hold it in our hand. And then my mother would put it back in the trunk in her bedroom. And for awhile I thought, What is the significance of this medal?
But as I grew older and missed my brother more and more, I realized well this is the only tangible thing that we have left. So I drove up to Watertown and met with you at your home.
ZF: Yeah, at that point I knew you meant business. I mean, to drive eight hours to come see me.
AR: That night when you brought the medal down from your bedroom and I saw it was in the very same box that I had last seen it in, I knew it was in good hands. And then you brought down your purple heart medal.
ZF: Yup. I was wounded in Afghanistan.
AR: And we got to know each other pretty well.
ZF: We together have talked about planning a trip to Italy, and maybe walk some of the ground that your brother would have walked during the war.
AR: I would like to make that trip, really. We were very fortunate that you were the one who ended up with the purple heart. And you’re part of our family now.