Image: Missing purple heart

A Saginaw Township family thought their father's World War II medals were lost forever, but they were found in an odd place. 

William Upton was a Saginaw Lieutenant for the United States Air Force during World War II. He earned a Purple Heart and the Air Medal by piloting a plane full of soldiers that lost an engine.

“They had to throw things out and make it lighter and then finally after 14 hours, they landed in the dark with one engine,” said Cynthia Valdiserri, Upton’s daughter. “They all survived.”

Cynthia and her sister Marguerite Kolka remember seeing their dad’s medals when they were little.

“We’d show our friends,” said Kolka

“You know, play with the stuff,” said Valdiserri. “We weren’t supposed to.”

Lieutenant Upton died of cancer in 1993. Over the years, the family last track of these awards. They simply disappeared.

“Somehow it got in the shuffle,” said Valdiserri. “Maybe it was on the back of a car. We’ll never know.”

A few year ago, they were found in a ditch in Port Huron.

“The gentleman that found them tried to locate us with the last name Upton,” said Kolka. “But my dad had four girls. And we are all married with different names.”

Just this month, the man contracted the St. Claire County Veteran Affairs Office which made a Facebook post.

“Within three hours we were located,” said Valdiserri

“To see it again is like ‘oh my gosh’,” said Kolka. “Soon as I saw it on the post I was like ‘I remember that.’”

Now, she can hold her father’s lost medals in her hands.

“He’s with us always and it just makes it a little more real,” said Kolka

‘It was emotional,” said Valdiserri. “It really was.”

The next step for this family is to take the awards and photos and make a little memory display so the grandkids and family members can honor Lieutenant Upton.

Copyright 2020 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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