MESA, Ariz. — Laura Hardy and her husband, Jake, were shopping at a Goodwill store Saturday when something caught Jake's eye at the jewelry counter.

The purple and gold medal was unmistakable. It was a Purple Heart.

Pinned to a $4.99 Goodwill retail tag, the couple knew the medal belonged somewhere else. They bought it and started to do some digging.

A Google search revealed that the medal was awarded to a World War II veteran named Eaul H. Whiteman. Whiteman died in 1991 and is buried in a veteran's national cemetery near Portland, Oregon.

Laura Hardy posted a plea on Facebook, and soon help poured in. Tina Durnil Cook's group, Veteran Buddy Finder, was able to solve the mystery.

"Who knew what this man did to earn this medal?" Hardy said. "It must have been something pretty important, because this is a very important medal to earn."

Hardy's post has been shared nearly 100,000 times. A number of the people commenting on Facebook wondered how such a prestigious award wound up on a secondhand jewelry counter.

"For it to just be lost in the shuffle and show up at Goodwill at that price, you can't put a price on a medal," Hardy said. "I'm really lucky that this lady found it, she solved it all in one morning."

The medal, which belongs to Whiteman's nephew, was inadvertently donated to another Goodwill location. A Goodwill spokesperson said this was an oversight on their part. They said they are always looking out for military honors like these and will work with local veterans' groups to see that they are returned to family members.

The Hardys are returning Whiteman's medal to his nephew's family in Missouri.

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