The son of a Buffalo man killed in World War II today received the long-lost certificate from his Purple Heart medal during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show.
And a representative of the Army presented him with a replacement Purple Heart for the one earned by his father, Cpl. Basil Burns, who was killed in action in North Africa on May 1, 1943.
Tears filled the eyes of John Burns of Statesville, N.C., as he stood holding the certificate with the medal pinned to his coat.
"This brings us all together," said Burns, 66, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. His daughter, Mary Burns, pointed out that it was fortunate he could receive the medal now because in another two years or so the disease might have progressed to the point where it would have lost its meaning.
The show brought together the Burnses and Julian Papp, the West Nyack man who spotted the certificate at an antiques mall in North Carolina and was outraged that it was being offered for sale. He bought it for $31.50.
A seal on the back of the framed certificate indicated the work had been done in Buffalo and he contacted The Buffalo News seeking help track survivors.
Amateur genealogist Ed Kornowski of Buffalo supplied an obituary on Cpl. Burns, saying his survivors included a son by a previous marriage, and Papp managed to track him down.
It "represents a great sacrifice," Papp said. Burns "fought and died" for his country.