(KETK) Tyler Tx — When he was twenty-one years old, Robert Bates was killed in action aboard the U.S.S. Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack.
His body still remains sealed within the ship below the ocean floor.
But not his memory.
And through the efforts of a few good men, a classroom, and their teacher, his family is now whole.
It was an embrace for Kris Wilson, Robert Bate's niece, that encompassed so much more than a first time meeting, and a returned family heirloom.
Robert Bate's Purple Heart was found on the side of the road in Bakersfield, outside a local VFW post.
The post then enlisted the help of Ken Hooper, and his Bakersfield High School class to help find who this belonged to.
A search that led them to East Texas.
Kris and her brother Mark Bates father,Robert's younger brother, has already passed away, so he was not able to see his brother's Purple Heart returned.
But through this process they found another member of their family, a cousin, Dwight Bates from Athens.
But why take the time to fly from California to Dallas, and then drive to downtown Tyler, when something so small could have been mailed.
Because although the medal may be small, it's impact far outweighs letters and stamps.