Many people head to the pawn shop during the holiday season, selling their valuables for cash to afford gifts for loved ones. But one man in Holland, Mich., loaned something priceless -- his Purple Heart.
In November, a serviceman on leave went to the A-Z Outlet in Holland, a pawn shop owned by Bryan VandenBosch, and sold one of his two Purple Hearts. He earned them after he was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, the Holland Sentinel reported.
"He was falling on hard times," VandenBosch told the Sentinel. "He said the same thing everybody else who comes in here says. He was short on funds."
Michele Belczak, an employee at Max Your Gold in Southfield, Mich., has seen customers selling valuables as they struggle to afford their holiday spending, projected to reach $646 for an average American family this year.
"It's going to hurt less to buy their kids Christmas presents, or Christmas is simply going to be better because they're going to have this extra money they didn't expect to have," she said.
Despite their service to the country, veterans struggle more than most. The veteran unemployment rate in Michigan is almost 30 percent, triple the state's overall unemployment rate and higher than that of any other state.
The Purple Heart award was established in 1932 and is awarded by the president to anyone wounded or killed while serving in the armed forces. It revived the Badge of Military Merit, created by President George Washington in 1782.
The serviceman who gave up his medal of merit remains anonymous. He declined an interview with the Sentinel.
VanderBosch, the pawn shop owner, said he would not sell the valuable military award, keeping it in case the serviceman returned to get his Purple Heart out of hock.
If you would like to volunteer or make a donation to support veterans this holiday season, consider the Charity Navigator's list of organizations that best assist our troops and veterans.