Fallen WWII soldier's lost Purple Heart found, donated to Austin - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Fallen WWII soldier's lost Purple Heart found, donated to Austin Fire Museum

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Austin firefighter Lt. Jerry Cohen considers himself a history buff.

He came to fire station 7 in East Austin right out of training 12 years ago and immediately took note of a plaque there in memory of a fallen soldier -- Private Clarence Doherty.

"It said that this tree was planted in honor of a firefighter killed in World War II and I thought that was really interesting so I went inside and asked the other guys about it and nobody knew anything," Cohen said.

So Cohen did his homework and found out that Doherty had been an Austin firefighter for 5 years.

He even helped open the building we still call fire station 7 before enlisting in the army and going off to fight WWII where he was killed in action on April 9, 1943.

Lt. Cohen helped commemorate the 60th anniversary of the soldier's death in 2003 -- 11 years later -- just a few months ago, Cohen got an e-mail from someone who'd made an interesting find at a Killeen estate sale: a Purple Heart.

"It was a little pricey. But I knew it was special so I went ahead and snapped it up. I didn't realize how special until I started looking it up on the internet and saw that he had died during WWII," said Chrystal Garcia.

Thanks to the Austin Fire Museum that Lt. Cohen helped start, Chrystal Garcia was able to track down the history behind the medal and donated it to the museum...on Wednesday, veterans, firefighters and Doherty's family looked on as the soldier's memory was honored once again.

Doherty's grand-daughter, Kathy Murchison Hays, says her family wasn't even aware he had been awarded the Purple Heart.

"It's so exciting to find out this history about my granddad, I mean my mom had always talked about her childhood with him but never any of his work history. We had no idea he was a fireman," Hays said.

Among the artifacts at Wednesday's ceremony, a captured Nazi flag...written on it are all of the names of company "A" of the 135th Regiment of the U.S. Army...Doherty's included. Just for this occasion, the flag was brought halfway across the country...to fire station 7.

"They flew from Maryland to be here today to have that flag on display to prove to the family that his death wasn't in vain that we captured the flag and won the war," Cohen said.

Clarence Doherty was one of four Austin firefighters killed in action in WWII.

There are memorials for the other three at other stations in Austin.

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