ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – On New Year’s Eve, an Albuquerque family found a Purple Heart that didn’t belong to them and spent the last few decades trying to find its rightful owner. Now, there is finally a happy ending to the story.
The tips started coming almost instantly and in less than 24 hours after our story aired, the Purple Heart recipient has finally been found.
“This morning I woke up and I had about 6 emails saying hey, there’s this and this,” said Casey Bruno.
The single Purple Heart has been in Casey Bruno’s family since WWII. The only problem was, it didn’t belong to her family.
Casey’s father served in the Vietnam War and earned three of his own Purple Hearts.
Knowing how important the medals are to her family, she tried almost everything to find the man on the heart, Thomas F. Lachelle Jr.
“I got an email from this really nice lady. She had watched the story last night and she got really interested in it,” said Casey.
That woman found out Lachelle died more than 10 years ago. He also had a sister who had two kids.
“One of the kids, Patricia, is on Facebook. So immediately I went to Facebook and I was like, okay! I found her!” said Casey.
Lachelle’s niece, Patricia Giannascoli, lives in Upper Darby, PA and says the message from Casey was an unexpected, but welcomed surprise.
“I was very very surprised and very proud of him. I was always very proud of his service,” said Giannascoli.
Giannascoli never knew about the Purple Heart and says her uncle didn’t talk about his experiences in WWII much.
She believes this is a moment he would’ve cherished.
“Oh he would be so happy to have his Purple Heart. He would really love it,” she said.
It’s a reaction Casey and her family have only dreamt about.
“I might cry. That makes me really happy,” said Casey.
Giannascoli also says she loved going to the beach with her uncle when she was a kid. He would also tell her often he was proud of serving his country in WWII.
Casey says she will ship out the Purple Heart as soon as possible. She plans on putting it in a nice box with a note to the Lachelle family.