PORTLAND, Tenn. (WTVF) — Bill Bradley, 97, barely made it out alive himself, when a fire destroyed his home a few months ago. But everything inside the house was a total loss, including his uniform and service medals from World War II. Bill's granddaughter Dustin Cole assumed those just couldn't be replaced.
"To have watched him lose everything and see something you think as irreplaceable," said Cole. "I think that was probably the thing he struggled with losing the most."
It turns out, Dustin wasn't the only one devastated. "I saw the shot of his medals that were charred and destroyed. It broke my heart," said Patrick McGee, a fellow Army Veteran and viewer of NewsChannel5 in Tennessee.
McGee has never met Bill or his family, but decided after watching NewsChannel5's previous story on Bill that there was something he could do about it.
"So I researched the movement of the Seventh Armored Division from the landing in 1944 on Normandy Beach, through Belgium, France, Germany and Holland," said McGee.
After a month of research and a few eBay bidding wars, McGee summoned some of the Army's famed pomp and circumstance, to re-award these medals to Mr. Bradley.
"So what I’d like to do is, do it the way the Army taught me to do it back then," McGee explained in a ceremony he performed in Cole's house. "The Bronze Star is awarded by the commanding general headquartered Seventh Armored Division to the following enlisted personnel, Private First Class William Bradley."
Mr. Bradley may have earned them 77 years ago, but especially after putting on a new version of an old favorite -- the infamous "Ike Jacket" -- memories started flooding back.
"What’s the old saying? Once a man, twice a child? I guess I’m just thinking about what happened to me in my younger days," said Bradley.
Bradley's family's gratitude started flooding back too. "It’s really put my faith back into people," said Cole.
Because there are things that just can't be replaced, and one of them is sitting in his new uniform. "It’s amazing, really is. Means a lot," said Bradley.
McGee told us he was inspired to donate this replacement uniform to Mr. Bradley -- partially because his own father was a World War II veteran that has already passed away.
A lot of you have also asked about trying to rebuild Bill's house. We have some good news about that too, but we can't share it with you just yet.
In the meantime, if you'd like to donate to Mr. Bradley's GoFundMe, you can click here.