DENVER (KDVR) — U.S. Army veteran Joel Hunt copes with a serious brain injury sustained during his multiple military tours in Iraq.
“The medal means something to me, but it means more to me helping veterans so they don’t struggle like I had to,” Hunt said. “It’s been a painful journey.”
In 2011, the Denver nonprofit Forgotten Heroes Campaign awarded Hunt a Purple Heart. Now, that organization is telling the Problem Solvers some of their awards are not commissioned by the Department of Defense.
“I wouldn’t be a part of this organization if they gave out medals to people who didn’t deserve them,” said Barry Fiore with Forgotten Heroes. “When he pinned that medal on him, he figured all the documentation was there.”
But the medal pinned a decade ago was not real, Fiore admitted to the Problem Solvers.
Fiore said Hunt not only deserves a Purple Heart, but also an apology, which FOX31 recorded and shared with Hunt.
“Joel, I would say this, from what I have seen in the documentation that you have, I feel really bad that you have not been able to absolve yourself of these veterans that are accusing you of stolen valor. I feel the Purple Heart is deserved,” said Fiore “I am sorry this happened to you.”
Hunt said about six months ago, the process the organization used to provide medals to veterans was questioned. Doubt rose in the military community about the Purple Heart, and Hunt became the target of widespread harassment.
A complaint was filed with Colorado’s Department of State regarding Hunt’s association with another military nonprofit called Military Brotherhood Radio (MBR).
The complaint accused Hunt of locking MBR’s bank accounts and broadcast platforms. FOX31 confirmed the Secretary of State’s office found no wrongdoing by Hunt and wrote in an Oct. 27, 2022 letter that “there was insufficient evidence to show that the organization is currently in violation of the Colorado Charitable Solicitations Act.”
Hunt told us that the social media criticism lead him into a state of depression.
“Let’s just say that my new alive date is May 21. I have no idea why I woke up, but when I woke up, I was shocked,” said Hunt.
Veteran advocate Robert Alvarez took Hunt’s case and has now filed paperwork and shown FOX31 proof that Hunt deserves a real Purple Heart.
“I have seen many people be awarded a Purple Heart, Joel fits those exact criteria,” said U.S. JAG Attorney Robert Alvarez. “The ‘I’ wasn’t dotted, the ‘T’ wasn’t crossed, the documentation wasn’t done.”
Alvarez said he expects the defense department to issue the medal in the coming months.
“I appreciate it and I forgive them and the veterans that bullied me. I forgive them too, cause that’s what God would want,” said Hunt.
A formal meeting between Hunt and The Forgotten Heroes Campaign is expected to take place next month.
The Forgotten Heroes Campaign told the Problem Solvers that they have changed their award vetting process and veterans with questions will receive full assistance.