As It Happens

Dog finds long-lost Purple Heart, returns it to veteran’s family

Ten years after his dog, Smuckers, dug up a Purple Heart in his lawn, a Colorado man is finally returning the medal to its rightful owner.
Smuckers, left, dug up a Purple Heart medal a decade ago. This weekend, he and his owner, Steve Jankousky, will be reuniting the long-lost medal with Cpl. Richmond Litman's family. (Steve Jankousky)

Ten years after their dog, Smuckers, dug up a Purple Heart in their lawn, a Colorado couple is finally returning the medal to its rightful owner.

Steve Jankousky has spent the last decade trying to track down Cpl. Richmond Litman, whose name was engraved on the war medal.

Jankousky says Smuckers, who was still a young pup at the time of the discovery, was digging a large hole outside his home.

“Smuckers has always been a  digger,” he tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

When Jankousky went to refill the hole, he noticed something shiny inside. It was a Purple Heart, a medal awarded to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded or killed.

“I knew what it was immediately . . . I knew someone had lost it and that it must have meant very much to them or to their family,” says Jankousky, whose own father received a Purple Heart for his service in the Army Air Corps in the Second World War.

Purple Heart medal belonging to Cpl. Richmond Litman. (Steve Jankousky)

He began his mission to track down Cpl. Litman, cold-calling people with that name in the phone book, searching the internet and contacting veterans’ organizations. He even had help from Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization that reunites military families with lost or stolen medals --  but had little success in finding Cpl. Litman or his family.

Then a couple of local TV news stations began reporting on his search. The story was seen by the friends of Leatra Plick --  the stepdaughter of Cpl. Litman.

Plick contacted Purple Hearts Reunited and she will soon be reunited with her stepfather’s medal, which she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. Jankousky, along with Smuckers, will present it to her this weekend in a special ceremony at Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery, where Cpl. Litman is buried.

Although Jankousky hasn’t yet directly contacted Cpl. Litman’s family -- this weekend will be their first meeting -- he has heard that they are stunned by the discovery. “[Plick] was thrilled that someone had found it, and I think they're just really excited that some attention has been brought to this man’s life,” he says.

Jankousky learned that Cpl. Litman received the Purple Heart for being wounded in the Korean War in 1950. He died sometime in the 1990s.

Cpl. Richmond Litman received his Purple Heart medal for his military service during the Korean War. (Purple Hearts Reunited)

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