ST. PAUL (WCCO) — It was an amazing scene at Fort Snelling on Sunday. A Minnesota family is finally reunited with a long-lost purple heart.

Wiljo Matalamaki, 22 years old at the time, was killed in action during World War II. The U.S. Army awarded him the Purple Heart after his death and gave it to his mother. But somehow it ended up in a landfill.

A woman named Tami Heart said her mother found it there while scavenging for recyclables in the 90s.

On Sunday, she officially returned the Purple Heart to Viljo’s family during a ceremony at Fort Snelling. Tami tells us she spent nearly 20 years looking for the award’s rightful owners.

“Last year I just happened to be up at the house and some strangers pulled in my driveway saying they were on a family reunion. Like everybody else I told them the Purple Heart story and we found out they were relatives of the man whose name was on the back of the Purple Heart,” Heart said.

Wiljo’s relatives say they are overjoyed to have the Purple Heart back in the family.


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