Return of Purple Heart from WWII turns up missing family

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CONCORD, N.H. >> A Purple Heart awarded to a soldier from New Hampshire killed in World War II's Battle of the Bulge that turned up recently after a woman's death has brought together two branches of a family that never knew of the other's existence.

Eugene Victor Call, a U.S. Army technician, was killed March 2, 1945, with seven other platoon members near Kapellen, Germany, at 32. He was assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Company C, 643rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, 83rd Infantry Division.

Recently, the Vermont group Purple Hearts Reunited got a call from Rick Daigle in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Daigle's wife had died, and among her possessions were Call's Purple Heart, other medals, a pocket knife, razor and family photos.

It turned out her mother had been married to Call at the time of his death. A military veteran himself, Daigle wanted to make sure they got back to family.

The search led to a namesake great-nephew in Newport, New Hampshire, and to grandchildren in California.

Ceremonies honoring Call are planned in Newport on Monday and California on Thursday.

In Newport, Eugene Victor Call Jr., 49, knew he had a great-uncle who died in the service.

"I knew I was named after him, but other than that, nobody really said too much," said Call, a truck driver. His father also had the same name.

One thing he didn't know was that his great-uncle had a young son who was taken to California at 8. That son, David Eugene, lost contact with the family and died in 2004. He left three sons and a daughter.

One of those sons, Mark Morris in San Diego, was floored when he heard about the medals and the family connection.

"This week's been quite a roller coaster ride," he said. "It's been almost 71 years since he died, but I'm almost reliving it — it's almost brand-new to me."

Morris said his father had no memories of his dad.

"He, of course, mentioned him through the years, and he always kind of wanted to find family back there, and he tried a few times, just to no luck," Morris said.

Morris, 52, a carpenter, said that since he was contacted about the medals, he has spoken to Call in Newport and to other relatives on Facebook. They shared some old photos of his grandfather. Morris just wishes his father were still alive to see them.

"I'm loving getting the medals," he said, "but just finding out about all the family is awesome."

Purple Hearts Reunited, created in 2012, works to return lost or stolen military medals to veterans or their families.


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