NC Woman Finds Purple Heart At Yard Sale

11:11 PM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
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Foxfire, NC - Kimberly Paller is a stay-at-home mom who treasure hunts on the weekends.

She searches yard sales near her home in Foxfire and sells her finds on eBay. Last year, she purchased a box of old books but soon discovered she had more on her hands than literature.

"We knew it was significant," explained Paller. 

Tucked between the books, was a small box. Inside was a Purple Heart.

She put it back in the box and it wasn't until a few months ago she pulled the medal out again. 

"I did a little research and once I checked it online, I saw that sometimes they'll engrave a name on the back," said Paller.

"That's when I took it out and flipped it over saw there was a name on the back of it."

Engraved on the back of the Purple Heart was the name, "Henry A. Schenk."

"I found the name on it and it just put into Google 'Purple Heart' and his name and all of this happened," said Paller.

Paller's online searches lead her to an article written by Hollywood actor, and Army Veteran, James McEachin.

The article was about his service in the Korean War, and the recipient of the lost Purple Heart, Lieutenant Henry Schenk. 

"I just sent him a private message on Facebook," said Paller. "I left my phone number and then went outside for 15 minutes or so and came back in and he had called."

"I was totally in shock. I didn't know what to say," said James McEachin.

He added, "I couldn't carry on a prolonged conversation because I looked for this guy for so long."

For nearly sixty years, McEachin searched for relatives of Schenk.

"This was unquestionable the bravest man I had ever seen or ever will see," said Schenk.

The two fought together in Korea. On August 15, 1952, their troop was ambushed. Several men died, even more were wounded, and several disappeared. McEachin and Schenk went back in  to find their missing comrades, but Schenk was shot and didn't survive.

"When we walked into an ambush, it was amazing the courage this guy showed. He was firing at the enemy, cursing and shouting and everything and seeking no cover," said McEachin. "I just knew that, if I ever got out of that, I had to tell someone about him."

After connecting with Paller, McEachin reached out to the organization Purple Heart Reunited. The founder, Captain Zachariah Fike, compiled a detailed history of Lt. Schenk and contacted his living relatives.

Schenk's niece lives just seven miles from Paller. 

Last week, McEachin was able to fulfill a near life-long mission of speaking to Schenk's relatives.

"I told them... it just felt so, I could just shout at this moment and said I finally told somebody what an amazing human being this guy was," said McEachin.

Schenk's family never knew what happened to him in Korea. He was listed as Missing in Action and they never knew the reason he didn't come home. 

"I think what they were worried about was he tortured, or what he a prisoner or did they capture him alive?," explained Paller. "I think that is what was weighing on them so much. To know that those things didn't happen to him I think was a big relief."

A family member told News 2's Morgan Hightower that if Schenk's Purple Heart was never lost and found, they would probably never know what happened to him.

"I was so taken by these gestures, this act of patriotism of hers, of the goodness out of our heart," said McEachin. 

He says being connected with Schenk after all these years is Paller's doing. 

"This is the stuff dreams are made of," he said.

"The whole thing is pretty incredible I think, it's a neat story," said Paller. "I'm proud to be a part of it."

For her part, she will be honored at the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice in Mobile, Alabama this weekend. 

She will be presented with the American Patriotism Award given by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

At the ceremony, Paller will give the Purple Heart to McEachin who will present the family with the medal in another ceremony.

WFMY News 2

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