- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

FREMONT, Ohio (AP) - A family has a piece of its history back after a grandfather’s Purple Heart for service in World War I was returned in a ceremony Saturday following years, and miles, of separation.

Carl Bond’s family didn’t know the medal existed - or was missing - until a representative of Purple Hearts Reunited called.

Bond’s Purple Heart, as well as his World War I Victory Medal, dog tags, and shrapnel taken from his combat wound, were returned to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums.

About 20 family members, as well as area veterans and other community members, were present for the event. U.S. Army Maj. Zachariah Fike, who works with Purple Hearts Reunited, presented the items to the soldier’s grandson, Jeff Bond, 49, of Fremont.

“For me personally this is an emotional day. What an honor,” Bond said. “I remember my dad thought he was a hero so naturally, us kids, we all thought he was a hero.”

“We knew we had heroes in our family,” he said, adding that his father and uncle also served. “We were always proud of them, but we didn’t know there was something out there more than just us knowing the story.”

Pvt. Carl Ivan Bond was born in 1895 in Noble County. He registered for the draft in 1917 and was severely wounded by a land mine in Muesse-Argonne, France, on Oct. 14, 1918. After he was discharged in 1919, he returned to Ohio and worked as a repairman for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He died in 1978 in Cambridge.

In addition to his medals, the family got back his wallet - with French currency still inside - a pocket knife, and buttons from his uniform.

“Family is great,” Jeff Bond told those gathered. “There is nothing better than family and knowing my family fought for our freedom that we live with every day is something special.”

The Purple Heart was not awarded until 1932, but veterans wounded or killed on or after April 5, 1917, could receive one retroactively. An estimated 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded to date. It has its roots in purple, heart-shaped cloth patches awarded by Gen. George Washington to three soldiers as the Badge of Military Merit.

Major Fike’s involvement in Purple Hearts Reunited began after his own deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequent injury.

As part of his transition and recovery after deployment, he began to collect antiques. When his mother found a Purple Heart at an antique shop and gave it to him, he realized he wanted to help families reunite with lost items.

He founded the organization that does just that. Last year, the group spent $50,000 to obtain about 125 medals to be returned to the recipients’ families.

“Things happen in life,” he said, explaining how medals get lost through the generations. “Things happen. We move, people remarry. If you can envision how a medal is found, we’ve heard it.”

Purple Hearts Reunited receives about three medals a week donated from collectors or people who find them, he said. Researchers then use the name engraved on the awards to find potential family members.

“We feel it is important to educate the community on why the Purple Heart is so special, and give families a moment they never received,” Major Fike said. “Carl Bond is a hero. He went off to war, he fought for our country. He laid down his blood and he is a hero. We need to remember him.”

Bond remembered his grandfather as a stern and patriotic man who, like many in his generation, didn’t talk about his time in service much. The family doesn’t know how or why his belongings ended up in the hands of a collector in Florida.

Bringing the medals home has also brought to light new information about his grandfather and his service, Bond said. Now, with the items safely back in the family’s care, Bond said he will make sure they are never lost or forgotten again.

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Information from: The Blade, https://www.toledoblade.com/

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