After Purple Heart is stolen, Tennessee veteran given brand new one

WKRN staff - GILES COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Vietnam veteran got a wonderful gift Thursday morning—a new Purple Heart to replace one that thieves stole during a home burglary in December 2015.

The crime is still unsolved, but former Marine Jim Culpepper, still got some good news with the replacement.

"I went in with a platoon of 45 men and 25 walked out," he said of his time in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967. "A whole lot of guys put their lives on the line."

When a grenade exploded, the now 75-year-old was badly injured. Shrapnel from that blast are still in his left leg.

"I set the thing off at the airport every now and then," Culpepper told News 2.

Forty-seven years ago, he married the love of his life, LaDonna. They had three kids and moved to Giles County.

"It is sad people steal instead of get a job," LaDonna said. "They have to know what a guy goes through to get a Purple Heart."

Thieves broke into their home in December 2015, stealing many valuable items, including both the prestigious honor and World War II medals that once belonged to LaDonna's father.

"I was mad. It was one of my few prized possessions," Culpepper said.

Sheriff Kyle Helton reached out to Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who pulled some strings in D.C. to get the veteran a brand new Purple Heart.

"And we got to work on it to see if we could get the medals replaced, so he and his family will have these. He deserves to have these," Congressman Blackburn told News 2.

At the time of the break-in, the lead detective said one of the burglars wore a size 14 shoe. There's a reward for any information that leads to an arrest or conviction in the case.

If you have information, please call the Giles County Sheriff's Department at 931-363-3505.

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