TULSA, Oklahoma (Tulsa World) — Robert Titsworth got the surprise of his life when he opened his front door Monday.
Waiting for him at his Broken Arrow home was his cousin, Christine Riley, and Erin Faith Allen of Purple Hearts Reunited, who had the Purple Heart of his uncle — Thomas Dowda, a World War II paratrooper — killed in action in 1945.
Titsworth, a veteran himself, said the Purple Heart had been lost over time after being passed from family member to family member.
Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization dedicated to finding and reuniting the honor to veterans’ families, received the medal, and after months of researching and calling various people, reunited Dowda’s Purple Heart with Titsworth in a surprise ceremony.
“I never thought this day would come,” Titsworth said. “It’s nice to finally have it back in the family.”
Purple Hearts Reunited initially contacted Riley when they received Dowda’s Purple Heart. Riley said she had been searching for the medal or a replacement for a long time when she finally got the call it had been found.
“This really is a miracle this Purple Heart came when it did after all these years,” Riley said. “I was just sad I didn’t find it. Then two years later — lo and behold she (Allen) calls. I was shocked.”
Riley said she is thankful Purple Hearts Reunited is so passionate about finding Purple Hearts and bringing them home to families.
“It’s a tremendous honor for us to bring your uncle Tommy’s medal home to you,” Allen said. “Your uncle Tommy is a true American hero who sacrificed his life for all of us standing here in this room. We’re so happy he’s found his way home to you.”
Allen said she is happy to know Dowda is back home with his family where he belongs.
Titsworth said he was planning on visiting Dowda’s grave in the American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.
“We were going to go to Holland last summer, but the pandemic ended that idea,” Titsworth said. “But he came to me instead.”
He said he’s always considered his uncle a hero for making the ultimate sacrifice and it’s really special to have his medal.
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