LI family reunited with late veteran's Purple Heart

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A Purple Heart that had disappeared decades ago was presented to the family of its rightful owner on Veterans Day.

US Army veteran Willie Riley, of Riverhead, passed away from cancer nearly one year ago. His medal had gone missing in Illinois decades earlier, after Riley had given it to his sister for safe keeping.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the medal had been in a safe deposit box and was eventually turned over to the Illinois Treasurer’s Office about 10 years ago. Since then, it sat in a vault, until Riley's family was located through a program that helps reunite veterans with unclaimed medals.

On Saturday, during a solemn ceremony to honor Riley at Calverton National Cemetery, his family was presented with the Purple Heart medal that Riley had earned on the battlefield during the Vietnam war.

"This would make it complete for him. This is what he always wanted. And I'm glad we finally got it," says Lori Riley, Riley's wife.

Two of Riley's children are now carrying on his legacy, serving in the military themselves, and they say it's an honor to be presented with the medal on Veterans Day.

Riley's family was also presented with a certificate from Rep. Lee Zeldin's office, and a flag had been flown above the United States Capitol.

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