New Bedford man receives his late son’s Purple Heart; medal replaces one stolen by thieves in break-in

In an emotional ceremony today that capped off a painful two weeks, Joseph Ford Sr. was given a Purple Heart medal in honor of his late son’s service to the country, replacing one that was snatched by thieves from Ford’s New Bedford home earlier this month.

Ford was originally presented the Purple Heart following the 2006 death of his 19-year-old son, Marine Lance Corporal Michael Ford, who was serving in Iraq.

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The ceremony took place this morning at US Representative William R. Keating’s New Bedford office. Keating gave Joseph Ford the medal and a Marine commemorative coin in a ceremony that was also attended by other family members and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“I was ready for this day since the break-in,” Ford said in a telephone interview from Keating’s office after the ceremony. “I hoped there would be a replacement for it. I just didn’t think it would be this quick.”

After the break-in at his Willis Street home, which happened during a renovation project, Ford pleaded through the media for the return of the priceless items, but to no avail.

After news reports of the break-in spread, Keating said, someone from Michael Ford’s Marine company came into his Washington, D.C., office. That individual gave his Charlie Company coin to the congressman to give to Joseph Ford.

Keating then arranged for a replacement Purple Heart for the Ford family, presenting them “on behalf of a grateful nation,” Keating said.

“Having the Purple Heart, it’s a sign the government truly honors those who gave their lives,” Ford said. “That means everything in the world to me.”

Ford also received another coin from his sister in Missouri. While she was collecting money for a military cause, she told someone about the break-in. The man then reached into his pocket, pulled out the coin, and asked her to send it to Massachusetts.

Keating said he remembered from his grandmother just how significant the Purple Heart is to service members’ families. Keating’s uncle was killed while serving in the military when Keating was a child.

“Especially this weekend, it’s a time as a country that we reflect on those who gave their lives so we have our freedom,” Keating said after the ceremony. He said the thieves’ actions were “foolish.”

“You can never take away the memories of what these brave young men and women have done for this country,” he said.

Ford has decorated the living room of his home with items sent or given to him to honor his son. He plans to add the the replacement Purple Heart and coins to the display once the home renovation is complete.