Purple Heart belonging to man killed in Korean War returned to family at HPLM

A Purple Heart medal belonging to a Fremont man killed in combat during the Korean War was returned to the man’s family during a ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums.

The medal was awarded to Cpl. Richard Stout, 23, of Fremont after he was killed while on patrol as an infantryman for the U.S. Army on March 23, 1952, in North Korea.

More than 60 years later, Stout’s Purple Heart turned up for sale on the Internet. Purple Hearts Reunited, a non-profit organization that returns lost or stolen Purple Hearts to veterans or their families, bought it and tracked down Stout’s family.

On Wednesday, Purple Hearts reunited returned the medal, which it has framed, to Stout’s family during the ceremony in the rotunda of the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums. Purple Hearts are awarded to members of the military who are wounded or killed in action.

“We’re here to celebrate his life and his sacrifice,” said Maj. Zachariah Fike, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited. “We’re here to keep his memory alive. He is a Fremont hero.”

Stout was the first veteran of the Korean War to be buried in Fremont, according to his obituary. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, and his name is on the veterans’ memorial at the Sandusky County Courthouse.

Stout’s sister-in-law, Rosalyn Stout, shared some memories of him. He was the best man in their wedding, which was a special day for the family.

“He was very devoted to his family,” she said. “He was a very good, happy person.”

Other Stout family members, including a great-nephew named after Richard Stout, attend the ceremony and said they were happy to have his medal back in the family.

The family did not know he had been awarded the medal and did not know how it ended up in an online sale. It is not unusual for medals to be lost or end up for sale by collectors, Fike said. Sometimes items are misplaced when people move or family members die.

“A lot of these Purple Hearts are being found in the most random places,” he said. 

Scuba divers have found them, and they have turned up in cars, furniture and on airport tarmacs. Military collectors also sell them for an average of $300 to $500, Fike said.

Last year, Purple Hearts Reunited spent more than $50,000 to recover the medals and return them to the veterans or their families, he said.

“There are thousands of medals out there,” Fike said. “They deserve to be with families or in places of honor.”

This was the second Purple Heart returned to the local family of a veteran at the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums. In January, Purple Hearts Reunited returned a medal to the family of World War I veteran Carl I. Bond.

The Hayes Presidential Library & Museums is America’s first presidential library and is located at Spiegel Grove at the corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues. The facility is affiliated with the Ohio History Connection.

For information, call 419-332-2081, or visit rbhayes.org. Like HPLM on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hayespresidentialcenter and follow on Twitter at @rbhayespres and Instagram at rbhayespres.