On Memorial Day: One is Remembered

No missing person post for today, as I thought with the Memorial Day holiday it would be more appropriate to feature a story like this...
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On December 17, 2009, fifty-six people attended a graveside service held for Delbert E. Hahn and his wife Barbara in Bushnell, Florida.

What was strange about this funeral?

  • Not one person in attendance knew Delbert or Barbara.
  • Delbert died in 1983 and his wife passed away around 2003.
  • Delbert, a World War II US Army veteran who had received five Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, and his wife's cremated remains were found in the trash by teens.
You can read the well-written full version of what happened at the St. Petersburg Times website, but here is the summary:
A teen looking through a pile of trash finds a fishing rod, and tells his older sister.  Carol Sturgell then brings her boyfriend (both are also teens), Mike Colt, and additional searches of the discarded items produce one of Delbert's purple hearts, the certificate for a Bronze Star, and three filled urns (the third is believed to be the remains of Delbert's mother-in-law).

The recovered Bronze Star Certificate includes the notation:

  "...for heroism in ground combat in the vicinity of Normandy, France ... June 1944."

Delbert had survived the Normandy Invasion.

The items are turned over to the Tampa Police Department where investigators learn about US Army Staff Sergeant Hahn's courageous military service record, and piece together how his remains and the others were left in a pile of garbage (that information is here).

The Tampa Police Department, the Florida National Guard, employees of the Florida National Cemetery, and others made sure that Delbert receives a burial with full military honors (his wife was also buried with him, but unfortunately officials have been unable to lay the third person to rest).

Despite all efforts by authorities, not one relative or friend could be located that would attend the Delberts' funeral.
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Thank you to Sturgell, Colt, and all of the officers involved in this case and their extra efforts to ensure that this soldier was not forgotten.

Have a safe Memorial Day--I am thankful to be able to set aside some time to reflect on those who have given so much for me and my family. 

17 comments:

Nathalie said...

Wow, what a story. I am always amazed by the stories you find!
*Nathalie

Nathalie said...

Wow, what a story. I am always amazed by the stories you find!
*Nathalie

Audrey Allure said...

That is such a great gesture. So glad they paid their respects to a couple that was so deserving!

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

I can't believe they just threw the urns with ashes away! That's got to be all kinds of wrong!

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Under your calm and even presentation, I sense a sorrow and outrage. I also feel it.

This story is emblematic of how convenience continues to trump honor and continuity. But also, it's a story about how some young people and police officers set that right.

Thank you for posting: a warning, an outrage, and a hope all at once.

Happy Memorial Day,
Ann T.

Bob G. said...

Slamdunk:
That is a POWERFUL story hrere.

I too am torn between anger and sorrow.
No vet (and/or his family) that has served our nation is such an honorable manner should ever endure anything like this.

I am so proud that the officers, N/G and others involved will make SURE this family is not forgotten.

Thanks for sharing.
Have a blessed Memorial Day, everyone.

Elena said...

Thanks Slam for this story...very touching for today.

Herding Cats said...

Wow. Not one person? This makes me very sad.

J. J. in Phila said...

A moving story. Within the last year, I discovered an ancestor killed in the Civil War and completely forgotten by the family.

I can understand how many of Staff Sergeant Hahn's family and friends may be dead by now.

Momma Fargo said...

Wow. What a moving story. Thanks for sharing that.

Alex said...

As they say for everything there must be a reason. Perhaps this is what God wanted to be :

1. If the ashes of Staff Sergeant Hahn (and his wife) was not dumped in the trash (though this is an unfortunate and disrespectful act) he'd be just another forgotten hero.

2. This particular situation happened perhaps not incidentally, but by the great plan by the Almighty who wants us to remember Sergeant Hahn and his wife.

Whatever it is, this is a touching and sorrowful incident.

Thank you, Slamdunk for highlighting this story.

passionofthemom said...

Holy moly!! Can you imagine such a thing?? That those teens took the time to bring those items to the police makes my heart glad...you don't see that sort of thing much anymore. =) Thank you for posting this story...it really made my day to read about the lengths that were taken to put these folks to rest properly!

Adela said...

Amazing what doing the right thing can do. This story gave me chills.

Abigail said...

Wow! It is sad that happened, but how awesome the way those young people behaved. Bravo to them!

malone8 said...

As we remember and honor the sacrifice so many gave for our country, I also feel such pride in these teens.

Our young people need praise when they do the right thing; much of the time all they hear is the bad.

All the best - Maxi

Nishant said...

what a story. I am always amazed by the stories you find!
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Diana said...

So sad that those folks' remains were disrespected that way... but what a blessing that the community gave them the burial they deserved.

My father is a WWII veteran... and I am outraged when I hear stories like this of people destroying the honor of that great generation.