Gus Allbritton graduated from high school on a Friday, received his draft notice in the mail and found himself at Fort Benning, Georgia, training to become an Army infantryman on Monday.
He served in Vietnam with the 173rd Infantry Regiment from 1969-1970.
Prior to his discharge, the 20-year-old Allbritton received his third Purple Heart on a parade field at Fort Hood, Texas.
“The paperwork was processed a lot slower then so when my tour was complete, I flew to Fort Hood, Texas, to finish my enlistment,” he said. “It was there the award was approved and an officer pinned it to my uniform.”
Allbritton had a career in law enforcement after moving back to Florida. The medal made its way inside a large, glass water bottle that contained loose change and other trinkets Allbritton collected over the years.
Medal stolen when home burglarized
A burglar broke into his home in 1983. The thief stole the bottle and other items. Allbritton knew through his law enforcement experience that there was little, if any, chance of recovering his stolen property.
“I think I’ll keep this one.”
Thirty-eight years later, something short of a miracle happened. A good Samaritan named Jamie Bath was sorting through some items on a flea market table. He discovered a medallion in the shape of a golden heart with George Washington’s likeness in the center of a majestic purple background. An engraving on the back read, “Gus A. Allbritton – for Military Merit.”
Intrigued, Bath bought the medal. He went home and conducted investigative research on the Internet to see if he could find Allbritton.
Allbritton was not too difficult to track down as he’s been volunteering with the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center for 30 years. He has racked up approximately 35,000 hours of volunteer time.
“My Purple Heart is back where it belongs.”
He has carved out a digital footprint with Carl Vinson VA stories throughout the decades on social media and through local media.
Bath called the facility and asked to pass a message and his phone number on to Allbritton.
Allbritton called and after answering a few questions, the gravity of what Bath told him rocked his world. Could Bath have really found Allbritton’s long lost Purple Heart after almost four decades?
Bath offered to mail the medal to Allbritton. A few days later, he received the Purple Heart with his name inscribed on the back. The moment and days that followed were surreal.
“I couldn’t believe that after all this time my Purple Heart is back where it belongs,” he said. “I gave the other two to my kids, one to my daughter and the other to my son.”
He continued, “I think I’ll keep this one as the good Lord gave me another opportunity to care for it.”