James Earl Sims, an 87-year-old veteran of the Korean War and World War II, was recently reunited with his Purple Heart and three other honorary medals that had been missing for years.
Faye Dobbins and her daughter-in-law Ambra found the medals in a cardboard storage box from Harold's Jewelry & Pawn in Shelby, N.C. The jewelry store had closed after owner Harold Dobbins, Faye’s husband, passed away in November.
Sims’ name was etched on the Purple Heart. “I realized that these items were something special that needed to be returned to him, so I called the Veterans' office to get in contact with him,” says Ambra.
Debra Conn, veterans services technician at Cleveland County Veterans Services, was able to match the name to veteran records and locate Sims at his North Carolina residence. Last week, Sims’ family and friends surprised him with the medals at an honorary celebration held at the Cleveland County commissioners’ chamber.
Sims had received the Purple Heart after getting shot in the leg while serving in the Korean War and had also been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, and United Nations Korean War Medal. He assumed that the medals he misplaced years ago were lost forever. “He was so excited to get them back,” says Ambra. “He told me it was the happiest day of his life.”
How the awards ended up at Harold’s Jewelry remains a mystery. “I don’t know how my father-in-law received them, but it seemed like he knew how special they were and kept them safe,” says Ambra. “I’m sure he hoped someone would retrieve them someday.”