POTRERO, Calif. – Valuable medals belonging to a fallen Iraq War soldier were found in the debris of the devastating Border Fire this month.
In June, the Border Fire blackened over 7,600 acres and destroyed six homes and 12 outbuildings near Potrero, in the far southern reaches of San Diego County.
According to the County News Center, a group of volunteers with California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief went down to the burn area in August to help fire victims remove debris from their damaged properties and try and find any valuable mementoes that may have been buried in the debris.
One of those fire victims was 60-year-old Bill Cronkrite, who lost his house and several outbuildings in the Border Fire. Cronkite’s son, Army Sgt. Brud Joseph Cronkrite, was killed in the Iraq War on May 14, 2004, at the age of 22. Sgt. Cronkite was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol.
In 1997, 10News interviewed Brud Cronkite when he was only 16. He showed strength after losing his friend in a horrific car crash.
"I wish I could've told him in a couple months you're just going to get in a head-on collision, and that's it," he said in the interview.
Brud Cronkite loved his country, but when he was in Iraq, he could not wait to get home. He loved his family's house so much he hoped to inherit it one day.
In the Border Fire, Bill Cronkite lost a cedar chest that contained his son’s war medals, which included a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
The News Center reports that volunteers sifted through ash for two days on Cronkite's property before they located remnants of the medals.
The military, meanwhile, stepped in and gave Bill Cronkite a new Purple Heart and Bronze Star, the News Center reports. It also gave him a U.S. flag which had flown over the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar air wing in honor of Sgt. Cronkite following his death.
"Needless to say, it was very emotional for me," Bill Cronkite told the News Center. "We were trying to get them replaced but I wasn't having a lot of luck. I will forever be indebted to them. They have my heart."
Someone Brud Cronkite served with set up a GoFundMe page to help the family at https://www.gofundme.com/Brud-Cronkrite.