Vietnam Veteran Reunited with Stolen Purple Heart Medals 40 Years After Robbery
Almost 40 years ago, burglars broke into Gus Allbritton’s home while he was at work as a sheriff’s deputy and stole one of his most cherished items. The burglars stole several guns and a five-gallon glass water bottle filled with coins, pocket knives and other valuables – including one of three Purple Heart medals he was awarded after being wounded during the Vietnam War.
The 71-year-old veteran had given the other two medals to his son and daughter, and assumed the third would be safe in the bottle. “When I saw that the water bottle — and everything in it — had been stolen, I figured that was it. I’d never see it again,” Allbritton told The Washington Post. “I reported it missing, but I knew the odds were slim to none that I’d ever get it back.”
Thirty-eight years had passed since the 1983 break-in when Allbritton, who now resides in Dublin, GA, found a shocking message waiting for him at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, where he regularly volunteers. “It said that somebody had found my Purple Heart,” said Allbritton. “And there was a phone number in Florida for a man named Jamie Bath.”
Allbritton called Bath, who said he had recently purchased a medal for $2 at a local yard sale and noticed the inscription on the back: “For Military Merit — Gus A. Allbritton.”
“He Googled my name and tracked me down at the Dublin VA,” said Allbritton. “I couldn’t believe it. How did something as small as that medal turn up after 38 years?”
Bath said he knew he had to find the rightful owner of the medal as soon as he saw the name on it. “It was a war medal, and I knew it must mean a lot to the person who’d earned it,” he said. “Giving it back was the right thing to do.”
Bath said it took only a few days to find Allbritton — he searched for his name online and found a news release about his volunteer efforts with veterans. Allbritton has devoted more than 35,000 hours to assisting other veterans.
“When Jamie called and said he’d like to mail me back my medal, I gave him my address. And sure enough, it arrived just a few days later in a little box,” said Allbritton. “It’s a very humanitarian thing he did.”
Image source: The Washington Post