WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Army Lieutenant Henry Schenk was killed in action in 1952 as he tried to save his fellow soldiers during an ambush in Korea.
In his patrol was James McEachin, who credits Schenk with saving his life.
"No one can even imagine what it is to serve with someone like that who so selflessly gave their life,” he said.
McEachin has been searching for Schenk’s family for decades, hoping to tell them of the lieutenant’s brave actions. Finally, he was connected with them after Kimberly Paller discovered the lieutenant’s lost Purple Heart in a box of books she bought at a North Carolina yard sale.
"Eventually when we took it out and found the name on the back, it was a hunt...gotta get it back to wherever it belongs or whoever it belongs to," she said.
She searched the Internet, learned of McEachin, and then contacted him on the west coast.
"God just blessed me -- that Kimberly found that medal and had the presence or the wherewithal to call me and tell me she found Lt. Schenk's medal," said McEachin.
On Tuesday at the Korean War Memorial, the medal was finally returned to the lieutenant’s family.
"It got away from us by accident, and through an amazing set of circumstances, has made its way back -- and today, we'll celebrate that," said Schenk's nephew.
It took nearly three months to track down the Schenk family. That's a long time, according to Purple Hearts Reunited; the group has returned 50 lost medals over the last four years.