Aaron Ng now has a new “heart” and a new home — thanks to the extraordinary efforts of nonprofit organizations working on behalf of veterans (with Wells Fargo support).
Years after his Purple Heart was stolen, the Iraq War veteran received a replacement medal in September, completing a chain of events that began when he was wounded in war.
“This means everything to me,” Ng said at a small ceremony in his Las Vegas home, where he received the replacement. “Some think it’s just a piece of metal, but it’s so much more than that. Without it, without serving my country, none of this would have happened — the house, the honor, this support I feel.”
Ng occasionally wiped away tears as speakers at the ceremony discussed his personal history. (He is shown on right in the photo above with Darius Toston of Wells Fargo.)
The former Army machine-gunner suffered traumatic brain injury and other wounds when his vehicle was hit by a bomb on the road to Baghdad. He received the Purple Heart and other honors for his heroism that day as he continued, despite his injuries, to protect his convoy from ambush. He received a mortgage-free home from Wells Fargo and the nonprofit Military Warriors Support Foundation in 2015. The long-running home-donation program for veterans includes financial education and homeownership mentoring.
When presented with the home, Ng quietly mentioned to the nonprofit that his Purple Heart medal had been stolen years before in a burglary. That sent John Hill, the nonprofit’s media and marketing coordinator, on a quest to help — eventually leading to U.S. Army Maj. Zac Fike of Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit that helps find or replace lost or stolen military medals. Fike presented Ng with a new Purple Heart in a frame with five other combat medals Ng had previously received.
Wells Fargo and Military Warriors Support Foundation have aided hundreds of veterans and their families.
“We need to maintain our legacy by telling stories like Aaron’s,” said Fike, also an Iraq War veteran. “He and I hadn’t met before, but we served on the same ground in Iraq, along one of the most dangerous roads in the country. So it is a real honor to help make something like this possible.”
Said veteran Darius Toston of Wells Fargo Home Lending in Las Vegas: “It was incredibly gratifying to be there from the start to meet Aaron when he received his home. Then to go back and see him get his medals was a tremendous opportunity for me and a great example of how Wells Fargo supports veterans.”
The company’s efforts with Military Warriors Support Foundation have aided hundreds of veterans and their families across the U.S., said Jerry Quinn, head of Wells Fargo’s Military Affairs Program.
“We are honored to be able to reach out and help veterans like Aaron,” he said. “It is no wonder the foundation and Purple Hearts Reunited worked so hard to ensure his valor was restored. He paid a hefty price for that Purple Heart, and for that we should all be grateful.”
Ng said having his Purple Heart medal restored — combined with the home donation and financial mentoring — has helped bring healing to his life after the war.
“I was lucky to come back,” he said. “I lost some really close friends over there. I had promised them I would come back and live my life to the fullest for all of them. When someone stole my Purple Heart, I felt like they were cheating me and my friends. But having it back now, I feel I can keep my promise.”