Family of WWII veteran who escaped Nazi Germany reunited with his lost Purple Heart

A Purple Heart, lost for over a decade, was finally returned Monday night.

It belonged to a brave New Yorker who escaped the Nazis and fought in World War II.

"These medals are being lost all over the country. They are being found in old abandoned homes, vehicles, furniture. Metal detector enthusiasts are finding them buried in the ground," Purple Heart Reunited founder Zachariah Fike said.

Sgt. George Sahlmann escaped Germany in 1937. He was a stowaway on a ship heading to New York. He settled in Brooklyn before enlisting in the US Army. He returned to Europe to fight the Nazis. Sahlmann was wounded three times and earned a Purple Heart. It was in his Brooklyn home for decades.

He died in 2006 at the age of 95. His belongings were dispersed and the Purple Heart disappeared.

When Purple Heart Reunited founder Zachariah Fike discovered Sahlmann's medal on a military collecting website, he tracked down his great-niece Karen Bowes in Florida.

She was reunited with the Purple Heart at the Museum of Jewish Heritage Monday night.

"He was my god-father, probably my favorite uncle. He was very funny and animated and very kind," Bowes said.

Bowes would spend summers with her great-uncle in Brooklyn but she didn't know much about his history. In fact, Bowes only learned Sahlmann was Jewish before the ceremony. She was shocked.

"I didn't know anything. He couldn't speak about it," she said.

At the ceremony, Bowes received her great-uncle's long-lost Purple Heart before she handed it over to the museum. It will remain there on display so future generations can learn about Sgt. George Sahlmann's bravery.

"I'm happy. He went through a lot. He deserves the recognition," Bowes said.