Stolen Purple Heart found in unlikely place, returned to Salt Lake veteran’s family

SALT LAKE CITY - A stolen purple heart was found by a stranger hundreds of miles away, in one of the most unexpected places.

Miraculously, the late war hero's medal finally made its way back to his Utah family.

“To be found where it was and how it was, facts are stranger than fiction right?” said Cindi Dempsey. “It was a part of him; it was a big part of him, so to have it taken was losing a piece of our family."

A purple heart was one of the few things the Tarrance Family had left of their father Derral after cancer claimed the Korean War Veteran's life in 2011, but just months ago, someone broke into his widow's home in Salt Lake City, stealing anything of value and sentiment.

“All of my dad’s awards, and his urn, and his flag were taken; all the medals and certificates from his service,” said Dempsey.

The heartbroken family desperately searched pawn shops but lost hope of seeing the medal ever again. Then, just two weeks ago and hundreds of miles away, a homeless couple in Oregon was given an old, impounded trailer.

“There were broken plates, razor blades, needles just all sorts of trash,” said Jeffrey Drury, who found the medal.

When he looked a little closer, Drury found something unexpected.

“I just saw a little bit of the purple of the purple heart and instantly recognized the ribbon and knew what it was without even picking it up,” Drury said.

Drury is from a military family and knows how important the medal is.

“Taking someone’s purple heart or taking the urn or American Flag is like picking up somebody's tombstone right out of the ground and carrying it off,” Keri Drury said.

The Drury's main focus was to get it back to the veteran's family. Luckily, Derral’s name is engraved on the back.

“It's almost as if Derral's sprit was directing, saying, 'ya know, I want to go home, I don't belong here,'” Keri said.

With a post on social media, the comments came flooding in, and within a few days, the family saw it. One of Derral's daughters happened to be in Oregon and met with the couple on Memorial Day weekend to pick it up. Now Derral's purple heart is coming home to Salt Lake.

“Thank you. Thank you for going the extra mile, thank you for taking time, because it's something we couldn't replace,” Dempsey said.

While the urn, American flag and other medals weren't with the medal, the family is grateful to have the purple heart and will put it back up in Derral’s home.

As for the couple in Oregon, they are expecting a son in a matter of weeks, and plan to name him after Derral.