Lost Purple Heart returns home, after 70 years

Lutz, Florida -- JoAnn Alvarez Register had been having some strange dreams lately about an uncle she hasn't seen since she was a young girl.

"Really weird dreams, that he had been a prisoner of war all these years and that he had made his way home," said the 74-year-old Lutz woman. "Two weeks before I heard about the [Purple Heart], I dreamed it again. It's like the medal was calling to me."

She still remembers her Uncle Sandolio Alvarez vividly, despite there only being one photograph of the two of them together: Sandolio holding JoAnn as a toddler on his lap.

Sandolio, a soldier in the U.S. Army, earned the Purple Heart medal for giving the ultimate sacrifice. He was killed in action during World War II on July 27, 1944. The Purple Heart was given to his wife, Grace, but had been lost over time.

"I don't understand why anyone would leave it or sell it. It's so precious. I'll never understand why it left the hands of loved ones ever," said Register.

It was missing until last week, when a thousand miles away and many decades apart, a Houston man found it in a friend's shed.

"I hope it can be returned to the rightful owners," said James Austin, who found the military award.

Now after seven decades, the medal is finally coming back to Sandolio's family.

"I'm going to get, I'm sure, a chill and I'm going to cry, because I'm going to feel like I'm holding him, instead of him holding me," said JoAnn.

Video Extra: JoAnn reads Sandolio's final letter home

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