At Legion Post 147 in James Island, S.C., a Purple Heart citation for one of the original "Band of Brothers" was returned to the family of the man who earned it with his death on D-Day. The ceremony, held on Armed Forces Day, honored Sgt. Richard E. Owens of the 101st Airborne Division who died June 6, 1944, when his plane was shot down in Normandy. His Purple Heart Medal was presented to his great niece, Susanne Marshall, after the citation first surfaced at a Salvation Army depot in upstate New York.
Marshall, a descendant of Owens and his widow, Ruth McCann, gratefully thanked The American Legion and Salvation Army Captain Ronald Heimbrock of Messena, N.Y., for bringing the citation and accompanying picture back to her. Marshall, who hails originally from Winchester, Va., brought a scrapbook that contained pictures of Richard and Ruth, as well as letters written to home and articles written about the search for remaining family members.
The event was emceed by former Department Commander Dick Walsh of James Island and attended by members of The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary. Legion blogger Mark Seavey represented National American Legion staff, and Hembrock and his family came from the Salvation Army. Attendees who stayed enjoyed a nice meal provided by the Post 147 Auxiliary. Two local television stations also covered the ceremony.
"It's wonderful that we could return this citation to where it belongs," Seavey 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."
Marshall stressed that, "I want everyone to know that Richard was never forgotten by our family, and he was always loved and remembered by out family." While she had no idea how the citation ended up in Messena, she was pleased to have it back. She expressed happiness that the effort to locate the family had resulted in so much renewed interest in Richard Owens and the family. "I'm glad this brought so much attention to a man like Richard who deserves it."