SAN ANTONIO — When Fort Sam Houston Independent School District received a message about a purple heart found with high school namesake "Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole"'s name attached, it was ready to welcome home what it thought was a priceless treasure. The district says it made multiple attempts to contact Cole's family, but didn't hear back at the time- and believed that the medal had gone missing, and later been found.
Students and staff welcomed it home - but learned later that the medal was not authentic. The district says it heard from Robert Bruce Cole- LTC Cole's son - who said he did, in fact, have the Medal of Honor. The district says over the years it had made numerous attempts to locate Mr. Cole but didn't succeed, and presumed he had passed away; but when he contacted them, the district says he was gracious in his acceptance of its apology.
Mr. Cole offered to donate the actual Purple Heart and other artifacts to the school for public display. The school says it has no reason to believe that the woman who tried to donate what she thought was a true Purple Heart had any involvement in the alteration.
The district released a statement reading:
"This incident calls attention to what some historians describe as a perversion of history: The Forgery of Military Medals of significance for financial gain. As a school district located on a military installation serving military children, we find this behavior to be repulsive and not in keeping with the values we see represented in the parents of our students. Those who steal the honor of our service members should be held accountable for their actions.
In the coming days the students will be informed of the true facts surrounding the Purple Heart donation and the generosity of Mr. Cole. This incident, while disappointing, presents an educational opportunity that our students and the general public can learn from. These lessons center on the values of those who diminish the honor of our veterans, the values of those who would seek to preserve history by donating to the school and the values of the Cole family who have entrusted this district to preserve their most treasured memories.
The Fort Sam Houston ISD takes great pride in honoring the legacy of LTC Cole and is grateful to his son for his understanding and willingness to honor the school with the Purple Heart Medal. This medal and any other artifacts Mr. Cole may choose to donate will be displayed publically in a manner that preserves LTC Cole’s legacy so future generations of Cole students will continue to learn from his example."
The district says Lieutenant Col. Robert G. Cole led a battalion that parachuted into Normandy during D-Day operations, and was killed in action. His wife and son accepted his Medal of Honor and Purple Heart at Fort Sam Houston in 1944, but passed away years later. Somewhere in the shuffle of time, those symbols of courage and history went missing...until an unlikely find by Lisa Ludgen in Long Island, New York.
RELATED: Salute our veterans night