A pair of sons returned to America after fighting in a war to find that, despite being listed as the casualties of war, their deceased father’s Purple Heart was still missing from his cremation bag.
Through social media, Pete Souders saw a post about a Purple Heart he had returned to one of his three sons after the man died, MyFoxBoston.com reported.
But the tattoo sleeve on the Purple Heart didn’t match his older brother Mike’s, Rick, who fought with him in World War II.
Through a Facebook friend of Rick’s who had died, they got a closer look at the tags on the Purple Heart.
“Mike’s still got it,” their dad, Bob Souders, told MyFoxBoston.com. “He always wanted it, but it didn’t fit him.”
Mike recalled the events that led to him and his brother Fred taking that Purple Heart home for burial.
“Some guy wanted to sell it,” he told The Blaze. “We sent him a bag of weed, I’ll never forget, and my brother, my buddy Mike, the Army tatted up and said ‘do you have this Purple Heart?’ I had it laid on my lap just to keep my stash.”
He described the moment his brother collapsed in the back of a station wagon.
“We were going to meet a friend of mine here in our hometown and he stopped his car and I told him, ‘Oh my God, he just collapsed,'” Mike said. “And somebody said, ‘I think he’s been hit,’ and I realized he was hit by the soldier who just smoked me and sold the Purple Heart to the man.”
“I have the Purple Heart, did not know we had it. I didn’t get to actually meet anybody,” Rick said of the medal his dad received.
Bob Souders died in 2006. However, his family thought he would have received the Purple Heart during his funeral.
“But then I started looking through the open casket certificate and that’s what turned things on,” he said.
The picture of the Purple Heart with its tags and burial certificate were given to a group called Purple Hearts Reunited. The organization launched its next step in the process — finding the brothers’ father.
Pete Souders told MyFoxBoston.com that he sent the Purple Heart to his father’s birthplace in Kent, Maine, in an envelope and had the seal torn off it.
“Then my wife came home. That’s how much I kept it. We did about every Army thing, we did Sandhurst,” he said, “and she gave it back to me. A certain day, maybe two days later, we were standing by the mailbox and she opens it up, like ‘I got it.’ And that’s when I was thinking that we didn’t get the first Purple Heart back to the one where it belonged to our son.”
The artifact was mailed back to Kent for safekeeping and the chain of command. It was found when the original owner and his partner died, reported MyFoxBoston.com.
The pair’s son Michael Benson, a Vietnam veteran, spotted the Purple Heart on a Facebook post.
“At that point it was really like, ‘Wow. I didn’t think anybody would see this,'” he said. “It really brought tears to my eyes. It was a family reunion I never thought would happen. I thought it would be a lifetime before I would get that chance.
“I’m so thankful for the support the military provides and the support my community provides and my family provides for our veterans.”