WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. (KABC) -- Hyla Merin gladly accepted a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and six other war medals at her home Sunday. But she is no war vet. The honors were earned by a man she's never met.
"It's such an honor to do this in his memory," Merin said in tears. "I was named after him that's how my name Hyla comes from Hyman which was his name."
It was May of 1945 when 2nd Lt. Hyman Markel was killed in a gunfight while fighting German troops in Italy during WWII. If not for pictures Merin would have no idea what he look like. The Army officer died before she was born. Her mother didn't speak about her father much. He died while she was seven months pregnant with Merin.
"We had a few pictures, not many, a few pictures in the house up," Merin said. "My mother was kind of stoic. It was hard for her always to talk about it. A lot of what I know I know from my aunts and other family members who would tell me stories."
The manager of a West Hollywood apartment building found her father's medals and other items in a box hidden in a laundry room locker. Her parents had lived in the building in the 60s.
Purple Hearts Reunited founder Zachariah Fike was contacted. The Vermont Army National Guard captain, who founded the organization, reunites lost war medals with their rightful owner.
"I try to honor the veterans," Fike said. "I go through a local congress man and get all the other awards that he would have been entitled to and I get them framed professionally for the families. In this case, he'll get a professionally framed set of medals that he was entitled to for his service in the war."
These medals prove the strong, courageous and brave father she dreams about to this day isn't just a fantasy she envisions; he was real.
"This is kind of tears of love and joy," Merin said. It was a part of me. I've always known he was a wonderful person."
Merin's mother was told about the discovery of the Purple Heart but didn't live to see it - she died Feb. 1 at age 94.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.