PORT S. LUCIE, Fla. — A Port St. Lucie widow is expressing gratitude after her husband, a Vietnam veteran, had been robbed of his Purple Heart— a solemn distinction of his service. Now two years later, the family has nearly been made whole again.
Don Huddleston was a Marine who enlisted as a teenager. In the summer of 2021, as he was battling health problems, his wife Dorothy Huddleston noticed some strange charges on her credit card bills.
She discovered some of her jewelry was missing and so was her husband’s Purple Heart.
“Something just told me to open the box and that was gone,” Dorothy Huddleston said.
And a short time after the theft, Don Huddleston passed away.
“It’s so hard," she said, "I don’t want to think about when he passed.”
Surveillance photos from 2021 show their home health care aide attempted to pawn what appeared to be the Purple Heart. The pawn shop owner did not take it, and today, no one knows where it is.
That home health care aide was eventually arrested and sentenced in 2022 to seven years in prison.
While that Purple Heart may be gone forever, Port St. Lucie police, and specifically the victim advocate, worked tirelessly over the past two years to try and make things right.
Port St Lucie
Purple Heart stolen from Port St. Lucie veteran
“The detective reached out to me and said can you help this family recover some of their stolen items?" victim advocate Lauri Taylor said.
Taylor spent decades working in homicide, but today sees a more personal side of law enforcement.
“I love the chance to work with the victims longer," Taylor said. "With police, they have a job to do and they move on to the next crime."
Taylor helped Huddleston navigate federal forms, and through constant contact with the government during COVID, finally got a replacement for the Purple Heart.
“I felt really good that I was able to give her that one little thing back that was sentimental to her and her family,” Taylor said.
“Whenever we’re dealing with a victim, we treat them as one of our family members," Port St. Lucie Police Chief Richard Del Toro. "We proudly serve this community and treat them as family.”
Dorothy Huddleston said that law enforcement family helped her family during a very trying time.
“I feel like I got a part of my husband back and he’s proud that I kept going with this and I just know he’d be happy,” she said.