Miracle Moments: Vietnam Vet Reunited with Purple Heart Stolen From Him 38 Years Ago

by Matthew Memrick

A Vietnam veteran was reunited with his stolen Purple Heart medal after 38 years when a stranger recently bought it at a sale.

Dublin, Ga. resident Gus Albritton said the reunion was like meeting up with a “long-lost family member.”

Jamie Bath was a stranger when he looked up the 71-year-old Albritton’s address. He bought the medal in its case and saw the Vietnam veteran’s name on it. Bath then worked to connect the citation with the man or the man’s family.

Vietnam Vet’s Path To War

Gus Albritton’s path to Vietnam was a quick one in 1968.

The Army man, 18 at the time, said he graduated on a Friday night, got his draft notice on a Saturday, and was at Fort Benning on a Monday.

The tour of duty left him wounded on three different occasions. Albritton said he was shot in the right shoulder first. Then, he suffered wounds to his feet, legs and groin. Finally, an RPG attack left him with fragments in his back. One even passed through his chest.

But he’s still walking

“The Good Lord’s been good to me,” Albritton said per WGXA. All those woundings and he collected many Purple Hearts.

While his war memories never faded, he kept his stuff in a few places.

“I kept a lot of stuff in a big water jug, and I had pocket knives and a bunch of change and other trinkets in there, and I had thrown my purple heart in there.”

Albritton has spent 25 years and 23,000 hours as a volunteer, helping at the Dublin VA hospital as a way to cope with his PTSD.

Florida Breakin Devastating For Vet

In 1982, thieves broke into the veteran’s Brooksfield, Florida house. They stole his guns and his bottle of change with Purple Heart.

He reported it in the police report but figured it was gone.

Then he was unexpectedly contacted by a stranger.

Jamie Bath called him to say he bought the medal at a yard sale or flea market with the Vietnam veteran’s name engraved on the back.

Albritton gave him his address, and Bath returned it. Bath said it must have stayed local because he found it in Brooksfield, where Albritton’s theft happened.

Albritton and Bath are planning a meeting so Albritton can “thank the man” face to face.

The miracle find reunites Albritton’s Purple Hearts. The medals are more than just medals to the Vietnam veteran.

“You have to shed blood for your country to receive a Purple Heart, and I’ve shed my share of blood for my country.”

Purple Heart Effort

Currently, Congress is working on the Private Corrado A. G. Piccolo Purple Heart Preservation Act. 

Purple Hearts Reunited founder Zac Fike is working to make it illegal for anyone other than the Purple Heart recipient to sell their medal.

According to The Numismatic Bibliomania Society, Fike’s mother obtained the World War II Purple Heart awarded to Pvt. Corrado A. G. Piccolo’s family. Piccolo died in battle. Fike tracked down members of Piccolo’s family and returned the medal to them.

Fike has since made it his mission to return as many Purple Hearts as he can get his hands on.