WOODLAND (CBS13) — On this Veterans Day, a local military family was reunited with a prestigious medal that had been lost for years.
It may have happened 75 years ago, but 91-year old Betty Brown remembers it like it happened yesterday.
“The Secretary of War desires to express his deep regret that your son, PFC Robert W. Brown, was killed in action on 5 September in France,” read Betty’s great-granddaughter Hannah.
Betty was just 17 when her mother read the telegram that said her older brother wouldn’t be coming home from war.
“We were just very close, cause it was only the two of us,” said Betty.
Robert W. Brown was killed at just 19 years old. Six months after enlisting in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in World War II, he was shot down during a parachute landing in France in 1944.
And if losing her brother wasn’t enough, the family had also lost precious items that kept his memory alive. That was until Davis resident Brian Cox found a purple heart and a telegram saying a man had been killed in 1944.
Cox interviewed with CBS13 back in August when he had found a purple heart medal with the name Robert W. Brown inscribed on the back and a telegram addressed to a Mrs. Bertha L. Brown dated Sept. 21, 1944, inside an abandoned storage locker in Woodland.
“I buy these storage units and you find peculiar things, but I never found anything like this,” said Cox.
Months after our story ran, CBS13 got several calls with family’s claiming the prestigious medal belonged to them, but there was just one match.
“Like I said, I can’t believe you returned it like this, it’s been emotional,” said Betty.
“We never thought we would find them ever again,” said Hannah.
Cox not only delivered the Purple Heart to Betty and her great-granddaughter but also returned precious pieces of the family’s past. “These are all letters from your brother, that he sent from the war. They’re all stamped 1944,” said Cox.
Brian also brought hundreds of pictures found in the locker. Ironically, the first one he hands to Betty happened to be of her.
“Yup, that’s me,” said Betty.
“That’s you?” asked Cox, laughing in awe. “Wow, that’s amazing.”
That one picture Cox just randomly pulled out was actually from the same sequence of pictures Betty had laid out on her table.
“I’m speechless, this is something so priceless to us, [I] can’t thank you enough,” said Hannah.
It’s a reminder of the greatest sacrifice, and now this precious medal is going back home where it belongs.
“Just to have them back with her, the only living person who knew him, it’s phenomenal, I’m so happy,” said Hannah.
“Just to know there are people like Brian, who go out of their way for other people… he’s one in a million,” said Betty.
It turns out Betty’s other brother, Larry, got into an accident years ago and a friend of his packed up his things, and opened up a storage locker that was forgotten about. Until now.