Dog Digs Up Purple Heart, Returns it to Vet's Family After 25 Years
It's a doggone miracle: A Purple Heart that went missing 25 years ago has been returned to the family of a Colorado veteran – all thanks to a dog named Smuckers.
Back in 2004, the Labrador-golden retriever mix dug up the medal in her owners’ backyard in Denver. This weekend, the Purple Heart finally made its way back to the family of its recipient, Korean War veteran Richmond L. Litman.
The medal was tied to Smuckers’ collar and presented to Litman’s daughter, Leatra Plick, in a ceremony at Fort Logan National Cemetery, where Litman is buried.
“It’s a miracle […] it’s a God-sent miracle,” Plick said.
There’s no word on how the medal ended up in Smuckers’ owners’ backyard.
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About 25 years ago, the medal was mysteriously lost. Smuckers dug it up in the backyard of the Dexter Street home of her masters, Steve Jankousky and Tom Unterwagner, in 2004. But it would take 11 years for the medal to finally find its way back to the Litman family.
Jankousky and Unterwagner initially called several people with the last name Litman, hoping to find him or his family. But it wasn't until 11 years later that they saw an article about a Vermont group called Purple Hearts Reunited and contacted its founder, combat-wounded veteran Zachariah Fike.
Within 24 hours after a story appeared about the medal, Plick called Fike to claim it.
The ceremony also was sponsored by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The group has reunited 150 medals with service members or their families or local museums.
Litman enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948 and was wounded Sept. 18, 1950, in South Korea. How the medal came to be buried in a yard four blocks from his home remains a mystery.
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