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The Military Order of the Purple Heart

For Immediate Release

Birmingham, Alabama - June 18, 2012

Toulman Freeman’s Lost WWII Purple Heart Medal Finds Its Way Back Home

It all started when an employee of a nursing home in Robertsdale, Alabama began to dismantle an old washing machine before taking it to the dump, when a badly damaged ribbon and medal were found lying on the bottom.  On closer inspection it was found to be a Purple Heart Medal with the name “Toulman Y. Freeman” engraved on the back.  When it was confirmed that Freeman had never been a resident of the nursing home, Manager Tina Pardue turned to the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) to help find the owner, saying “If you can, please assist me on whom I need to contact to return this Precious Medal to his family.”  In turn, the MOPH turned to US Army Capt. Zachariah Fike, a Vermont National Guardsman who devotes a considerable amount of his time and energy to finding the rightful owners of lost or stolen Purple Heart Medals.

After considerable research, it was learned that Toulman Yancey Freeman, born 15 July 1922, had been wounded in Holland on the 4th of November 1944 while serving with the 7th Armored Division; Anti-Tank Rifle Platoon, Company Alpha, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (Task Force Fuller).  He later died in an evacuation hospital; he was just 22 years old.  Before leaving for France in WWII, he married Estelle Flora Strickland Clayton.  Toulman’s mother, Delilah, sent four of her sons off to war; Uel, Walter, Alex, and Toulman.  Only one didn’t return home, which were pretty good odds during those days.   It is safe to assume that CPL Freeman’s Purple Heart was presented to his wife Estelle after his death.  Losing the love of her life I’m sure was very difficult.  It’s also fair to assume that she kept this Medal close to her for the next 64 years.  She had remarried and had children, yet she kept this Purple Heart in her pocket as a memento of her lost love and his true sacrifice, how else would it have ended up in a washer at the nursing home where she spent her final days.  This was a true love story most of us will never understand.  Captain Fike was able to located Mr. Freeman’s last living sibling, Willie E. Freeman Butts, alive and well in Fort Deposit, AL.  She is currently 91 years old. 

Toulman Y. Freeman

James Alex Freeman standing next to his
brother's (Toulman Y. Freeman) grave at the
U.S. Military Cemetary, Henri Chapelle, Belgium

On 23 June 2012, Captain Fike will return the Purple Heart to Toulman Freeman’s sister, Willie Butts, in a special ceremony at 12:00 PM, at the Bethany Baptist Church, 1612 CR 201, Crane Hill, Alabama. The Public is invited to attend. In addition, his other awards and decorations would include the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 campaign stars, American Campaign Medal, Expert Marksman’s Badge, and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin.

The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all combat wounded veterans and active duty men and women who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, through veteran service, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance. Through the VAVS Program, MOPH volunteers selflessly provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA medical facilities and State Veterans Homes.

For information contact:
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: PublicRelations@Purpleheart.org
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