A Purple Heart Reunion Story

Over sixty years ago James McEachin fought his way to safety and into a U.S. medic tent, despite having suffered severe combat wounds in Korea.  He would later discover he was one of only two survivors of that ambush. His survival and eventual recovery led him to pursuing a career in California; becoming a Hollywood actor. But no matter how busy life became on the West Coast, James never lost sight of his mission: to locate and thank the family of "the bravest man he has ever known."

Jump to 2013 on the opposite coast in a small town in North Carolina, Kimberly Paller was shopping local yard sales with her children, as she still does every weekend.  At a small estate sale, she stumbled across a box of old books which she purchased in hopes of reselling online.  Later, upon review of its contents, she was surprised to find a presentation case. Enclosed in that case was a Purple Heart Medal, a purple ribbon and a Gold Star. Engraved on the back of the medal was the name: Henry A. Schenk.

As the child of an Air Force service member, and a military spouse of eleven years, Kimberly knew how precious of a find this was. Unfortunately, her various yard sale adventures left her unable to locate the precise estate from which she acquired the box. She now had a mission of her own: to locate the family of Henry A. Schenk. An internet search led her to another purple heart (and silver star) recipient; a man who had been searching for the family of Henry A. Schenk for a majority of his life.

James McEachin was stunned to receive the message from Kimberly that she had stumbled across the Purple Heart of the man he credits with saving his life. Together they contacted Zachariah Fike, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited. Zach and his non-profit organization were able to trace Lt. Schenk's family back to a brother who had recently passed away and discovered that the purple heart had been mistakenly dropped into a box of old books at his estate sale. 

Later that year, at an intimate Purple Heart Reuniting Ceremony at the Korean Memorial in Washington D.C., Kimberly and James were privileged with honoring Lt. Henry Schenk by returning his awards to his family; a family who believes that the misplacement of the medal was a blessing.  Having spent decades with no more information about the death of their beloved "Uncle Hank" than a vague MIA listing - and eventually presumed KIA listing - the chance to meet James led to a better understanding of the heroism, courage and sacrifice made in Korea by the United States commissioned officer so long ago.

The untold story of Lt. Henry Schenk, who led 15 soldiers in a rescue mission and charged the line of fire with concern for only the men who lay wounded behind him, can finally be shared with the world and his purple heart laid to rest. Please join R. Riveter in celebrating the life, and honoring the sacrifice, of Lt. Henry Schenk and all Purple Heart recipients by sharing his story today on National Purple Heart Day. 

God bless our men and women in uniform and God bless America.

For more information on Purple Hearts Reunited, please visit http://purpleheartsreunited.org/.

A special thank you to Kimberly Paller for sharing this story with us.


Story written by: Kellie Gunderman