When his dog unearthed the metal in his Denver backyard 10 years ago, Steve Jankousky recognized it immediately.
"My dad was in World War II and he had a Purple Heart, so I was pretty familiar with what they looked like," Jankousky said Friday. "I thought someone's family would like to have it."
Purple Hearts Reunited hopes a ceremony planned Sunday at the Denver grave of the medal's recipient, Korean War veteran Richmond L. Litman, will help reveal his relatives. The group was founded in 2012 to get lost or stolen medals back to veterans or their families.
The Purple Heart is awarded to military personnel who are wounded in battle.
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When Smuckers, a yellow lab mix, dug up the medal a decade ago behind the house Jankousky and his partner, Tom Unterwagner, bought in 1994, they scoured the phone book for Litmans and queried neighbors, to no avail. They held onto it even after they moved to another Denver home and then contacted Purple Hearts Reunited when Jankousky heard a news report about the group.
The organization determined that Litman was born in Texas in 1926 and was wounded in action in South Korea in 1950, earning his Purple Heart. He had brothers, now also dead, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He lived for a time just a few doors from the home where his medal was buried. He died in 1990, and he and his wife Ida are buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
Despite the information Purple Hearts Reunited compiled, Litman's survivors remained elusive. The organization said attention drawn by the ceremony could help it find a home for the Purple Heart.