Patton's Granddaughter to Return Missing Footlocker to WWII Vet's Family

Helen Ayer Patton, granddaughter of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., takes time to read the names of fallen Soldiers at the Screaming Eagle Memorial Aerie inside the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) headquarters during her visit to Fort Campbell, Feb. 25, 2019. (U.S. Army/Sgt. James Griffin)
Helen Ayer Patton, granddaughter of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., takes time to read the names of fallen Soldiers at the Screaming Eagle Memorial Aerie inside the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) headquarters during her visit to Fort Campbell, Feb. 25, 2019. (U.S. Army/Sgt. James Griffin)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct inaccurate information provided to Military.com and distributed in a press release. Pfc. Calvin Morris was not a Purple Heart recipient; his family was reunited with a trunk, not a medal.

Helen Patton, granddaughter of famed Army Gen. George S. Patton, will be presenting a missing footlocker and shadow box to the family of a World War II vet Wednesday night, according to the non-profit group Purple Hearts Reunited.

Friends of Helen Patton in France, Daniel Le Bulot and Laurent Oliveira, found Army Pfc. Calvin Morris's old trunk that he apparently had left behind at a house in Rheims, France, in 1944, organization officials said.

Morris survived the war and went on to become a firefighter in New York City and then in Mayer, Arizona. He died in 1992.

Patton will present the trunk to Morris' children, Jerry Morris of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Eileen Kingston, of Long Island, New York, at a ceremony at the New York City Fire Museum marking National Purple Heart Day, celebrated every August 7.

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Seven other families will also receive their veterans' Purple Hearts, six of which date back to WWII and one to Vietnam.

In a Twitter post, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the day was reserved to honor and remember Purple Heart recipients.

"The nation is forever in debt for their selfless service, the scars seen & unseen & the burdens they carry," Esper said.

Army National Guard Maj. Zachariah Fike, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and founder of Purple Hearts Reunited, said "every medal has its own journey," and sometimes it takes the police to bring the journey to an end.

Such was the case for the Purple Heart of then 19-year-old Seaman First Class David Evidon, of Minneapolis. He served aboard the submarine Pickerel, which went missing off the coast of Japan in April 1943 and was believed to have been sunk, either by Japanese aircraft or depth charges.

Evidon's Purple Heart was found during the course of a drug bust by the Minnetonka, Minnesota, Police Department, and is being returned by police officer Dustin Stenglein to Evidon's nephew, Daniel Wilensky of Fort Myers, Florida, Fike said.

Each of the medals that will be returned in the ceremony in has a unique history, according to the listing by Purple Hearts Reunited:

Staff Sgt. Mark Miller of the Army Air Corps was a gunner aboard what was believed to be the last B-29 Superfortress shot down in World War II while on an August 8, 1945, mission against an aircraft factory northwest of Tokyo.

Miller, then 27, of Morristown, New Jersey, died in the crash. His aircraft, nicknamed the "City of Phoenix," was from the 6th Bomber Squadron, 29th Bomber Group, 20th Air Force.

Over the years, Miller's Purple Heart award was lost or misplaced. But now it's being returned to his grandson, retired Army Sgt. Maj. Mark Baylis. Miller's Purple Heart was "rescued" from eBay for $550, Fike said.

Cpl. Howard Louis Ellis of Bellingham, Washington, was aboard a B-17 bomber that was shot down over the Pacific on Feb. 8, 1942. His Purple Heart was found during the course of a storage auction by Robert Goins, of Tacoma, Washington, and will be returned by Goins to Ellis' nieces, Toni Thompson and Pamela O'Brien, according to Purple Hearts Reunited.

Marine Pfc. Robert Garry Ross was serving with H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division as a mortarman in Vietnam when he was severely wounded on May 2, 1967. He later succumbed to his wounds. His Purple Heart was found during a house rental and will be returned to his niece, Carolyn Ross of Adelanto, California.

Pfc. John M. Efstis, of the Army Air Corps, was aboard a troop ship that was sunk by a German bomber off the coast of North Africa on Nov. 26, 1943. His medal was turned in by a stranger to the Shreveport, Louisiana, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and will be returned to a niece and nephew of Efstis.

Sometimes the missing medal can't be found, despite diligent efforts by the family. Army Staff Sgt. Milton Coslite, of Brooklyn, New York, was killed in action on Jan. 14,1945, in Belgium while serving with the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division.

His great grand-nephew, Christopher Kemo, worked tirelessly but unsuccessfully to find the lost Purple Heart. Kemo and Coslite's niece, Catherine Coslite Pullen, will receive a replacement Purple Heart at the ceremony, Purple Hearts Reunited said.

It was not just the Purple Heart but the Navy Cross that was missing in the case of Navy Ens. Rubin Keltch. He helped survivors to the lifeboats and rafts when a German U-boat torpedo hit the patrol gunboat Plymouth on the port side amidships off Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on August 5, 1943.

As the ship listed and began to sink in flames, Keltch, 24, of Brooklyn, New York, then raced to the engine room to free other sailors but was trapped himself. He was among 94 sailors who went down with the Plymouth.

In 1944, Keltch was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the nation's second-highest award for valor, and the Purple Heart, the nation's oldest award, dating back to George Washington.

"He gallantly gave his life for his country," his Navy Cross citation said.

Keltch's lost Purple Heart and Navy Cross were found by Jeff Kauffman, of Brattleboro, Vermont, while rummaging through his father's collection of flea market purchases. They were returned to Keltch's niece, Florinne Keltch Abramowitz.

At the ceremony, Keltch Abramowitz will donate her uncle's Purple Heart and Navy Cross to the Navy Operational Support Center in New York City for permanent display, Purple Hearts Reunited said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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