Purple Hearts Reunited works to return lost or stolen military medals of valor to veterans or their families, in order to honor their sacrifice to the nation. At times, this requires a bit of help from the general public. When PHR was contacted by Steve Jankousky and Tom Unterwagner, whose dog had dug up a Purple Heart in the backyard of the Denver, CO home, the organization decided to coordinate a graveside ceremony and public campaign to raise awareness about the lost medal in hopes of finding direct relatives of its original owner.
The Purple Heart medal was found about 10 years ago by Steve Jankousky and Tom Unterwagner, whose dog dug up the treasure buried behind their house on Dexter Street in Denver. The men reached out to Purple Hearts Reunited recently for help locating the original owner’s family, and PHR hoped that media coverage of the discovered medal and the Denver ceremony on 22 March will lead to the family coming forward to claim CPL Litman’s medal. Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, who were at the ceremony to pay their respects to CPL Litman, would also help search for the veteran’s family. If no direct family members were located, PHR would assure that the medal would rest in an appropriate home of honor and be on public display.
Richmond L. Litman was born 04 March 1926, grew up in San Angelo, Tom Green County, TX, and enlisted in the U.S. Army on 26 April 1948. Preliminary research shows that Litman, an African-American soldier, came from a long tradition of military service, with both of his brothers serving in WWII and Korea, and one serving in Vietnam as well. CPL Litman, who served in the Korean War with the 2nd Infantry Division, earned his Purple Heart when he was wounded in action on 18 September 1950 in South Korea. He was discharged from the Army on 02 October 1950. CPL Litman, who died on 06 October 1990, is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery with his wife Ida.
On Sunday, 22 March 2015, the nonprofit organization Purple Hearts Reunited (PHR) and the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) hosted a small ceremony to honor the service and sacrifice of Korean War veteran CPL Richmond L. Litman. The ceremony took place CPL Litman’s gravesite at the Fort Logan National Cemetery at 4400 W Kenyon Ave, Denver, CO 80236 (Plot 1, Grave 1011). Purple Hearts Reunited founder Zachariah Fike presented the lost Purple Heart medal and commemorated the veteran, while media professionals covered the event. The organization hoped that the ceremony and news story leads to the discovery of CPL Litman’s family or an appropriate home of honor in which to display the medal.
The plan worked! The night after the ceremony in Denver, Zachariah Fike at PHR received a phone call from CPL Litman’s step-daughter. Arrangements are being made to return the Purple Heart to her in the very near future. Stay tuned for more information about the return of CPL Litman’s lost medal. A happy ending to a heartwarming story!
Peruse some of the media coverage that helped enable a successful search for a lost treasure:
News Channel 3: Dog Digs Up Purple Heart in Backyard