When Clearing Out Abandoned Storage Units, Florida Storage Facility Finds Military Commendations
Ordinarily when cleaning out abandoned South Florida storage units, Robert Raybuck throws everything straight into the garbage, but recently he experienced something definitely out of the ordinary.
In one unit slated to be cleared out he found only a single box. When he opened it, Raybuck discovered old photographs and documents. He quickly thumbed through the papers, looking for anything of significance or a means of identifying the box’s owner and came across the citation for a Purple Heart, issued to U.S. Army Private Richard Ferris for wounds sustained during World War II.
Using his connections as a volunteer with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Raybuck was able to do some research on Private Ferris. Ferris landed on Salerno Beach on Sept. 9, 1945 as part of Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of Italy. He manned a machine gun, providing covering fire for fellow troops landing on the beach after him. He was wounded once by enemy fire, received treatment and returned to his post before being hit and killed by a shell fragment. He is credited with taking out two machine gun emplacements and dispersing four tanks prior to his being killed.
Further research showed Ferris also received the Distinguished Cross Award for extraordinary heroism in combat, making him one of just 44 Jewish-Americans to receive the second-highest decoration that can be awarded to a soldier.
On Memorial Day, the Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library in Cape Coral honored the memory of Private Ferris with a playing of Taps and a flag-folding ceremony.
Raybuck is working with Purple Hearts Reunited, a group dedicated to returning lost or stolen medals to their recipients or their families, to find any living relatives of Private Ferris. If none can be found, Raybuck intends to donate the citation and photographs to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C.