Unclaimed Purple Heart discovered at Sonoma County Airport

- A stray Purple Heart found at the Sonoma County Airport has not been claimed, more than a week after its discovery.

It's the medal awarded for injury or death while serving in the U.S. military.

Airport staff are mystified by who it belongs to and how it ended up on the baggage claim carousel in the Santa Rosa airport.

"The person who found it is a veteran, and we have two other veterans who work for us," Airport Operations Supervisor Matt Yeager told KTVU.

Yeager was immediately concerned, having served four years in the U.S. Marine Corp.

"The first thing for me, was the importance of that medal and who it goes to," said Yeager, "because that person served our country and being a veteran, I understand and appreciate that importance." 

The medal's ribbon is tattered, and its surface worn, and it does not appear to have been stored in a case.
On the back are the words, "For Military Merit", inscribed on every Purple Heart. Underneath, the name of the recipient: Army Infantryman Miguel A. Perez Loubriel.

"He passed away at 23-years-old in the line of duty, Korean War, in 1952," explained Airport Marketing Specialist Gina Stocker.

The medal is attached to a piece of paper, a partial list of fellow Puerto Ricans who died fighting for the U.S. in Korea. 

The list is from a photograph, date stamped 20 years ago.

"So someone cared enough in 1997, to go find this memorial or monument and take a picture of it," noted Stocker.

When no one retrieved the medal after five days, an appeal went out on the airport's Facebook page, generating huge interest, and 93,000 views.

"Our typical posting has a couple thousand people look at it," marveled Stocker, "but this story resonates with everyone. To me, it's about family and about people, and getting home."

The next step: reviewing security video from around the time the medal was found.  

The Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Aiport has two commerical airlines serving seven cities, with about  35,000 passengers passing through every month.

Stocker is working with a national organization, "Purple Hearts Reunited", to find Private Perez's family.

He had three siblings, who would be elderly now. Stocker believes it's more likely, the medal has been with a younger relative.

"Maybe someone traveled with it for good luck. Maybe they look at it like, that's my uncle looking out for me," observed Stocker, "so with all the speculation, there are some fun little stories."

Until there are answers, the medal is locked up in the airport safe, waiting for its owner to emerge.

"To them, it's irreplaceable and priceless. So we're keeping it safe, and hopefully we'll find someone soon."   

Military records show Private Perez was killed in combat only 10 months after enlisting. He is buried in Puerto Rico.

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