Purple Hearts Reunited presented a lost Purple Heart medal to its recipient’s hometown on 13 March 2015. Purple Hearts Reunited (PHR) and the members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) conducted the public ceremony to present the lost Purple Heart of U.S. Marine Corps PFC Billy J. Christian to the Terrell Heritage Museum in PFC Christian’s hometown of Terrell, TX.
Billy Jack Christian was born on 19 December 1926 in Cottonwood, TX, son of M.A. (Theo) Christian, and attended public school in the Scurry-Rosser and Kaufman area. He was a student at Forest Avenue High School in Dallas for about three months before enlisting. PFC Christian (service number 512728) joined the Marines on 23 August 1943 and served in the USMCR in Charlie Company, 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, 3rd Amphibian Corps, 4th Marines (an armored invasion division). His unit sailed from Oceanside, CA on 27 December 1943, and Christian’s father received word that he had landed in the Marshall Islands on 01 February 1944. On 21 July 1944, the first day of the Invasion of Guam, Marianas Islands, PFC Christian was killed in action. Christian, 17 years of age, died approximately one hour into the battle. The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade experienced heavy casualties in this battle, after landing on the Western side of the island of Guam. The Purple Heart medal was awarded to PFC Christian posthumously.
Christian was originally buried on the battlefield, then in the Ninth Marine Cemetery in Guam, and finally reburied in a ceremony held 01 May 1948 at the Kaufman Cemetery in TX. According to an article in the Kaufman Herald, the body arrived in Kaufman on 30 April 1948 and lied in state at the Dees Chapel. Reverend Kerr of Hope, AR, who baptized PFC Christian at Warsaw, officiated, and the Hamlet P. Jones American Legion Post and the Kaufman Service Battery of the 133rd Field Artillery, Texas National Guard, assisted. Grand Prairie Marines acted as pallbearers. PFC Christian was the second victim of WWII to be brought home and reburied in Kaufman. At the time of death, Billy Jack Christian was survived by his father; a half-sister, Mrs. Opal Stewart of Burbank, CA; and two grandmothers, Mrs. T. W. Blair and Mrs. S. E. Christian, both of Dallas, TX. Christian is now buried beside his parents and infant sister in Section 6 of the Kaufman City Cemetery in TX.
Exact circumstances surrounding the loss of the medal are unknown, but Purple Hearts Reunited exists so that these treasured medals are returned to their rightful owners. In this case, the lost medal was donated to Purple Hearts Reunited by Audrey McCulloch of Tennessee. The Purple Heart was found in the belongings of Beatrice Wright Parmer, a friend of McCulloch’s who passed away at 87 years of age. McCulloch asked her friend’s family members if they knew who Billy J. Christian was, then contacted Purple Hearts Reunited for help. Unfortunately, no living family members of PFC Christian could be located. The medal was accepted on 13 March by Betty Brown on behalf of the Kaufman County Historical Commission. Over 50 people were present to witness the dedication and pay their respects to PFC Christian, including representatives from the MOPH, Terrell Heritage Museum, the town’s Chamber of Commerce, and Terrell’s Mayor, Hal Richards. The medal will be on display at the museum in perpetuity, so that any visitors can honor the service and sacrifice of PFC Christian and his comrades.
Read more about this return in the Terrell Tribune: County Marine Honored
This medal presentation was made possible in part by a $500 sponsorship by the Terrell Chamber of Commerce.