Marine's stolen Purple Heart replaced - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Marine's stolen Purple Heart replaced

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U.S. Rep. Bill Keating U.S. Rep. Bill Keating
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -

About a week after thieves stole a fallen Marine's Purple Heart, a lawmaker in Massachusetts steps in to make sure honor is restored.

The father of Lance Cpl. Michael Ford was bursting with emotion Friday when U.S. Rep. William Keating handed him a replacement Purple Heart. It's not the original, but the gesture shows people remember his son's sacrifice.

"This is the most sentimental thing that I own of him," said Ford's father, Joseph Ford Sr.

Pride, joy and gratefulness wash over Ford Sr.'s as he looks at a replacement Purple Heart.

"You can never forget a sacrifice like this," Ford said.

When Keating found out thieves stole two Purple Hearts from the Fords, he stepped in to make sure they were replaced quickly.

"I think it's one of the more despicable things that a person can do," Keating said. "It's not the ribbon. It's not the medal. It's what you gave to your country that's important."

Lance Cpl. Ford earned the Purple Hearts after giving his life. He was killed in 2006 after driving over a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was 19 years old.

When the story of his stolen medals spread, his brothers-in-arms came to his father's comfort.

"I received six phone calls and six emails from all across the country from the people he served with," Ford Sr. said. "It's good to know that I'm still part of their family."

One man even gave up his Charlie Company First Tank Battalion coin.

"It blows my mind the support that I have. Sometimes you think people forget. ... But they don't, and it's been amazing for me," Ford Sr. said.

Support helps ease the sting of betrayal, but the search for the original medals continues.

"The police are actively looking. Fortunately, I have a replacement one which does ease my pain. It really does," Ford Sr. said.

The original medals were stolen from Ford's unoccupied home on Willis Street, which is being repaired.

Ford said when the family moves back in, he's rededicating the living room to his son's memory.

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