In an emotional ceremony Friday, a New Bedford father was given a Purple Heart and a Marine commemorative coin awarded after the death of his son in Iraq to replace ones stolen from the father’s home earlier this month.
The ceremony was held after two strangers came forward separately to help.
Joseph Ford Sr. was first given the Purple Heart following the 2006 death of his 19-year-old son, Marine Lance Corporal Michael Ford, who was killed when his tank rolled over an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq.
US Representative William R. Keating gave Ford the medal and the coin in the Friday ceremony at his New Bedford office attended by family members and New Bedford’s mayor, Jonathan F. Mitchell.
“I was ready for this day since the break-in,” Ford said by phone from Keating’s office after the ceremony. “I hoped there would be a replacement for it. I just didn’t think it would be this quick.”
After the break-in at his Willis Street home, Ford pleaded through the news media for the return of the priceless items, but to no avail.
However, after news reports of the theft spread, Keating said, a Marine from Michael Ford’s company came to the congressman’s Washington, D.C., office and handed over his Charlie Company coin to be given to Ford.
Keating then arranged for a replacement Purple Heart for the Ford family, presenting it with the coin “on behalf of a grateful nation,” he said.
“Having the Purple Heart, it’s a sign the government truly honors those who gave their lives,” Ford said. “That means everything in the world to me.”
Ford said he also received a coin from his sister, who lives in Missouri. While she was collecting money for a military cause, she told a man about the break-in and theft at her brother’s house. The man reached into his pocket, pulled out the coin, and asked her to send it to Massachusetts.
“That coin was a total surprise,” Ford said.
Ford has decorated the living room of his home with items sent or given to him to honor his son, and he plans to add the replacement Purple Heart and coins to the display.
Keating said he remembered from his grandmother just how significant the Purple Heart is to service members’ families. The congressman’s uncle was killed while serving in the military when Keating was a child.
“Especially this weekend, it’s a time as a country that we reflect on those who gave their lives so we have our freedom,” Keating said after the ceremony. “You can never take away the memories of what these brave young men and women have done for this country.”
Lauren Dezenski can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenDezenski.