LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps on this Friday morning. Today we'll hear from a National Guard captain with a special mission. Zacaraih Fike finds Purple Heart medals for sale in antique stores and on the Internet. He buys them, tracks down their rightful owners and returns them. At StoryCorp, Zach spoke with Adeline Rockko, the first Purple Heart Zach returned belonged to Adeline's brother, who was killed in Europe during the Second World War. Here, they remember when Zach first got in touch.
ADELINE ROCKKO: I flooded him with questions, bang, bang, bang, one right after the other.
CAPTAIN ZACARAIH FIKE: What antique shop, who are you? She was very stern.
ROCKKO: After the conversation ended, I walked away from the phone and I says, oh, my God. He's so nice and he's returning our medal, and I treated him this way. So I called you right back again and apologized, and thanked you then. Now, this medal was very precious to my parents, and on special occasions they would take it out and let us touch it and hold it in our hand, and then my mother would put it back in the trunk in her bedroom.
And for a while I thought well, what's the significance of this medal, but as I grew older and missed my brother more and more, I realized, well, this is the only tangible thing that we have left. So I drove up to Watertown and met with you at your home.
FIKE: Yeah. At that point I knew you meant business. I mean, to drive eight hours to come see me.
ROCKKO: That night when you brought the medal down from your bedroom, and I saw it was in the very same box that I had last seen it in, I knew it was in good hands. And then you brought down your Purple Heart medal.
FIKE: Yeah. I was wounded in Afghanistan.
ROCKKO: And we got to know each other pretty well.
FIKE: We together have talked about planning a trip to Italy, and maybe walk some of the ground that your brother would have walked during the war.
ROCKKO: I would like to make that trip, really. We were very fortunate that you were the one who ended up with the Purple Heart, and you're part of our family now.
WERTHEIMER: That's Adeline Rockko with the man who found and returned her brother's Purple Heart, Army National Guard Captain Zach Fike. Captain Fike recently returned another lost medal to a family in Alabama. He tells us he's now five for five. This interview will be archived at the Library of Congress along with all StoryCorps interviews. The Podcast is at npr.org.