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Antiques dealer returns Purple Heart found in storage unit

Amy Maybury often finds valuable items for her antiques business when she sifts through the storage unit contents she buys at auctions.

Once in a while, she unearths treasures too priceless to sell.

The Texas antique dealer recently picked up a Purple Heart medal among the personal documents and photographs left behind in an abandoned storage unit that Maybury bought for $80 at auction.

Courtesy of Amy Maybury
The purple heart medal discovered in a Texas storage unit by an antiques dealer

Maybury’s husband spotted the military medal while going through the unit as she worked her booth at an antiques mall in Mansfield, Texas.

“Everyone there was just floored. They were shocked. We were told, ‘A lot of those are made of real gold. You should sell that here — I’ll buy it,'" Maybury told TODAY.

“But that wasn’t going to happen. From the get-go, I knew, ‘We need to send this home.”

Maybury had the name of the medal recipient, thanks to a slip of paper included inside the box, along with details about the soldier it belonged to: Clifford Audinet, who was killed in action in Italy on April 26, 1945.

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An online search took Maybury to a book written by the man’s son, Patrick Audinet, who several years ago penned a booklet about his dad, “KIA: An Orphan’s Search for his Father Through the Fog of War.”

Courtesy of Amy Maybury
Amy Maybury, with her daughter, at her antiques booth

Maybury ordered the book and then located Patrick Audinet through Facebook.

She soon learned his daughter had placed the box in a storage unit after she and her husband moved to Texas. The couple eventually moved away, but left the items behind because they couldn’t afford to retrieve them.

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Audinet, who lives in California, thanked Maybury for reaching out.

“He was very grateful. And somewhat embarrassed as well. He wanted to reimburse us for the cost of everything. We just said, ‘Absolutely no. We just want to give it back,’” she said. “So he gave us an address and he thanked us for our respect to his military family.”

Maybury has not been in communication with Audinet since last June, after she returned the medal to Audient by overnight courier.

Courtesy of Amy Maybury
Amy Maybury and her husband clean out one of the storage units the antiques dealer won at auction.

But she’s glad she could help return something so personal to him.

“I’ve been on the other side of that,” she explained.

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About five years ago, she and her son walked in on someone who burglarized her home. The man ran off, but she was able to identify him in a lineup and later learned the thief ended up throwing away some of the “worthless stuff” he took from her home. Among those items were belongings Maybury’s grandfather carried with him while serving abroad in Korea and during World War II.

“I know what it means to lose items that may be junk to someone else, but have a great deal of value to you," she said.

TODAY reached out for comment to Audinet but did not hear back Monday.

Maybury said there hasn't been a need to continue communication with him since she mailed him the Purple Heart.

"But I'm glad he has it back," she said. "I'm glad we could help."

Follow Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter or Facebook.

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