Veteran Tracks Down Family to Return Purple Heart

A Purple Heart is one of the military's highest honors, a symbol of heroism and sacrifice.

Often that sacrifice is paid with the life of a service member. That why a SoCal man is on a mission to return a Purple Heart to a family hundreds of miles away, who haven't seen it in more than a decade.

"I was inspired by my parents to join the Marine Corps after they both served,” says Joshua Rivera. “I felt a duty to serve my country."

For Rivera, the military has always been part of his family. He calls it a brotherhood like no other.

"You have people who are there for you whenever you need. You're there for them," he says.

The 25-year-old veteran served five years in the Marine Corps, including eight months in Afghanistan.

He's seen the sacrifice that comes with wearing the uniform after losing two of his fellow Marines.

"It hit home. It hit hard especially knowing them, hang out with them, laugh and then getting word that they passed away."

It still hurts his heart, he says, which is why he took action when he found out a Purple Heart was being sold at an antique shop in Old Town Temecula.

He immediately drove from his home in Laguna Niguel and paid $218 to buy it.

"I know the requirement and sacrifice it takes to earn that and I didn't think it belonged for sale just for anyone to buy. It belongs with the family."

The Purple Heart had paperwork with a picture and a name of the recipient: Jerry Wayne McGlothlen from Yelm, Washington.

In June 1970 he was killed in action in Vietnam at the age of 19.

Rivera posted a message on Facebook hoping to find Jerry McGlothlen’s family.

"About five, six hours later, I had a lady who was his niece,” Rivera says. “From there we organized to get it back to the family."

McGlothlen’s family members say they haven't seen the Purple Heart since it was stolen from a family car in 2002.

"It's like he's coming home," says family member Verna Shaffer.

They never thought they'd see it again, and can't thank Rivera enough for finding it.

"Gives me faith that there are good people out there because there are so many crooks and bad people," says McGlothlen’s sister Helen Baker.

Like the crook who stole the Purple Heart, she says. It’s a symbol of heroism that'll soon be home again thanks to a Marine veteran who knows all about family, brotherhood and sacrifice.

"Because of them we're here today,” Rivera says. “Because of them we have our freedom."

Family members say Jerry McGlothlen had a son he never met, who was adopted to another family.

They are hoping to find his long-lost son so they can give him the Purple Heart.

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