THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA.com)  — Military medals – including a Purple Heart – lost for nearly 70 years were returned to a decorated veteran’s Thousand Oaks family.

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It was luck and a fateful find. Louisa Hodge, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, says it’s also a story of history and valor.

Hyla Merin, “These are tears of joy. And surprise and shock.”

Merin never met her father – 2nd Lieutenant Hyman Markel. He died in 1945, while fighting in WWII.

But a missing piece of Merin’s history was just returned to her.

Apartment manager Rocco DiNobile found the medals after going through old storage lockers.

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“The fifth one I opened, had all these letters in it. And staring me in the face was a Purple Heart,” says DiNobile.

He contacted Zachariah Fike.

Fike is the CEO of the non-profit group Purple Hearts Reunited – an organization that helps return lost or stolen medals to veterans or their families.

He was thrilled to be able to return these medals to Merin. “Her father basically died saving many lives.”

The group reunited Merin with her father’s Purple Heart and his other prestigious medals, including the Bronze Star, Good Conduct medal, American Campaign medal, and a Purple Heart certificate signed by then-President Harry Truman.

A tearful Merin said, “Today, we are honoring [my father’s] memory.”

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Purple Hearts Reunited is hoping Merin’s story will inspire other families to contact them so they can continue the process of reuniting medals to their rightful owners.