At long last, a Purple Heart citation for a member of the original "Band of Brothers" is returning to the family of the man who earned it. Sgt. Richard Owens of the 101st Airborne Division died on D-Day - June 6, 1944 - when his plane was shot down in Normandy. But his Purple Heart citation was only recently discovered, turning up in an upstate New York Salvation Army store. Devoted researchers, led by an American Legion blogger, have made sure the citation returns to where it belongs.
Ronald Heimbrock of Messena, N.Y., found the Purple Heart and an accompanying portrait of Richard Owens in January when they were anonymously dropped off at his Salvation Army store. He turned to the news and later to blog sites to try to find a family member to return the certificate to. It quickly came to the attention of Legion blogger "Mothax" who started searching as well.
The search became larger and larger as amateur historians and genealogists from across the country joined in. As Heimbrock stated, "We could not have sold this, we could not have thrown this away. We needed to return it. That is the only thing we could have done with it."
Mothax travelled through southern Indiana, getting birth certificates and historical records while other Legionnaires scoured military records in Winchester, Va. After a great deal of researching, a tip paid off, and Owens' grand niece, Susanne Marshall, was discovered to be located just outside of Charleston, S. C. Heimbrock and Mothax are currently in Charleston, ready to pass over the citation and the portrait to Marshall at a ceremony that takes place Saturday - Armed Forces Day.
"It's time that this made it back to where it belongs," Legion blogger Mothax said. "It has been great getting to know Mr. Owens and his family through all of our historical research, but now that we have located the family, it is time to put it back in the hands of people who know how much it means." Tomorrow's event will be taking place at the James Island Legion Post on Folly Road, just south of Charleston.