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Purple Heart lost for decades returned to recipient’s granddaughter on Memorial Day

FORT BLISS, Texas (KVIA) -- A woman drove from Oklahoma to Fort Bliss to receive her grandfather's Purple Heart, which was lost for decades after he was killed in 1943.

Cindy Sooter's grandfather, John E. Lee was a Gunner's Mate 3rd Class in the U.S. Navy. He received the Purple Heart posthumously for his actions on the MS Sunoil. The MS Sunoil was part of a 62-ship convoy headed for Halifax and Scotland, according to Fort Bliss officials.

Officials said on April 5, 1943, a German U-Boat spotted the MS Sunoil, and fired three torpedoes. One hit the MS Sunoil. The ship's Armed Guard forced the U-Boat to submerge, averting another attack.

However, another German U-Boat spied the MS Sunoil later that same day, and fired three torpedoes, sinking the American ship. 43 Merchant Mariners and 26 Armed Guards were lost. Hill was among them.

"To receive a Purple Heart, that means he put his life on the line to save his other shipmates," said Chief Petty Officer Joseph Graham, who presented Sooter with Hill's Purple Heart Monday.

ABC-7 spoke with Sooter about what this means to her and her family. Tune into ABC-7 at 5 and 6 to hear her story.

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Kerry Mannix


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