On 24 June 2016 at 3pm, a special ceremony occurred at FDNY Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9 located at 48th Street and 8th Street, New York, NY 10036.
On 05 April 2007, Charles Wayne “C.W.” O’Brien was wounded in combat when his vehicle was hit by an IED in Ninevah Province, Iraq, just south of Mosul. His injuries have resulted in pain and memories of those who didn’t come home. Awarded a Purple Heart, it served as a constant reminder of memories he rather forget. However, his life started to change, finding the love of his life, Megin, whom he married on 17 March 2012. For their honeymoon, instead of traveling to a traditional destination, they decided to visit New York City. Both of their lives have been affected by September 11th and wanted to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in this tragedy.
C.W. also had another plan; he would find his Purple Heart a new home. They toured the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Ground Zero, but nothing stood out in his heart. On their last night in Manhattan, as they walked through Times Square, they came across Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9, the house known as the “Pride of Midtown”. This particular house lost 15 fire fighters on September 11th. He didn’t make a scene; he simply walked up to their memorial monument, placed his heart onto the steel below, and walked away. After returning home to Kansas, he would often wonder if they had seen his medal or perhaps a passerby had taken it.
What he didn’t know is that the firefighters of Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9 did find it, and it affected them deeply. They had the medal permanently encased into their memorial for everyone to see and often wondered who it belonged to. As time moved on, they thought they would never meet the Veteran who had shed his blood for his country. Luckily, C.W. took to writing as a form of therapy and would later write about his Purple Heart on Tumblr. One of the firefighters, John Bush, a Navy Veteran, had discovered the posting by doing a Google search; however, C.W. didn’t identify himself by name or leave any contact information. Firefighter Aaron Clark of Ladder 4 then turned to Purple Hearts Reunited for help. Within hours, we had located C.W. and put everyone in contact.