The Washington Post had an interesting article this morning about the efforts of a Salvation Army worker who sought to return to the family a mistakenly donated certificate for their ancestor's Purple Heart medal. Read the full story to learn how it worked out.
On an ordinary Saturday in January, volunteers at the Salvation Army in Upstate New York were sifting through donations of unwanted stuff when Shelia Gladding opened a box of what looked to be the usual chipped glass trinkets and forlorn bric-a-brac.
Then she scooped out a piece of paper. "Purple Heart," it read. "For military merit and for wounds received in action resulting in his death June 6, 1944."
Next to it, she found a sepia-tinted photograph of a smiling, handsome blond man in uniform, the Purple Heart recipient, Sgt. Richard E. Owen. On the back of the picture was a 15-cent stamp and the address of a Mrs. Richard E. Owen in Winchester, Va.
Gladding froze. How could this be? The official recognition of the ultimate sacrifice a soldier can make to his country, tossed in a box of discarded household items?
"It wasn't even wrapped neatly in paper," Gladding said. "I thought of my father, who fought in World War II, and how upset he'd be if he had a Purple Heart and his certificate wound up like this one, in a box of junk."
Heimbrock embarked on a search that would soon span the country as amateur genealogists, military bloggers, veterans groups, journalists and well-wishers transfixed by the mystery rummaged through courthouse records in Indiana, pored over newspaper archives in Pennsylvania, paged through old city directories in Winchester, surfed every corner of the Web and cold-called every Owen in dozens of phone books in a desperate attempt to find his next of kin.
"I am consumed by the story," a military blogger wrote last week. "I refuse to believe that this hero goes unremembered."
To read the complete article, see:
The story of a Purple heart citation and a search for the medal's owners
Wayne Homren, Editor
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