Purple Heart thrown away; family member found

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MIDLAND -- On Saturday we told you about the Purple Heart that was inexplicably tossed in a dumpster and found Wednesday.

Two Midlanders, Sandy Dunlap and Gary Kennedy, made it their goal to find the rightful owner.

Over the weekend Kennedy reached out to all the Jim, James, and Jimmy Carter’s he could find.

Still no answer.

Then this story went viral, and that’s when Kennedy started receiving hundreds of phone calls from all over the country.

Veterans and citizens alike offered him pointers and tips on how to contact the Jim C. Carter whose name is etched on the Purple Heart.

“You just really don’t know how many veterans you have in even a small town,” Kennedy said.

As an Army veteran himself, he’s touched by the tight-knit, yet massive military community.

“It’s nice knowing that we have that many people that care about someone who had a Purple Heart,” Kennedy said.

Just this morning, Dunlap and Kennedy visited cemeteries and funeral homes, combing through records to find the man whose name is on the Purple Heart.

Then: “the plot next to Jim Carter is his brother,” Dunlap said, beaming.

Early this morning at Resthaven Cemetery, the two friends finally found Carter and his brother buried next to each other.

Carter had died back in 1982, and his brother, who was also a World War II veteran, died last year.

As it turned out, Carter’s brother’s recent ceremony still documented in Resthaven’s records provided Kennedy and Dunlap with current phone numbers of family members.

“Jim's nephew,” said Dunlap, is who they reached out to.

“So we called them and they called us right back, and we talked with them several times already,” she said.

Carter’s nephew Tommy, now the rightful owner of the Purple Heart, lives in the Dallas area.

Dunlap describing their conversation as “so exciting,” adding how ecstatic she and Kennedy were to find a family member.

But still the one question remains—who threw out Carter’s medals in the first place, and why?

“It was by mistake,” Kennedy speculates.

Carter’s wife, who is still alive, recently moved to California.

But she has Alzheimer’s disease, which may mean why those medals were accidentally tossed in the trash.

Kennedy and Dunlap plan to meet Tommy Carter next week in Abilene and give them to him.