Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Missing Flag, Purple Heart Thought Lost in Tornado Found

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Missing Flag, Purple Heart Thought Lost in Tornado Found

Article excerpt

HOLT | In the weeks after the April 27, 2011, tornado, Margaret Krallman prayed for a miracle.

Her mother-in-law, Thelma Bennett Krallman, died in the storm at age 89, her house blown off its foundation and scattered over a block-wide area off Crescent Ridge Road in Holt. The only thing remaining that told the Krallman family where the house had once stood were the front steps, which are still there a year later.

The Krallmans sifted through the debris and found broken pieces of china, pieces of jewelry and even torn newspaper clippings. But there were two items that meant more to the family than anything else: a Purple Heart medal awarded to Margaret Krallman's late father-in-law, Staff Sgt. George H. Krallman for service in World War II, and the folded American flag awarded after his death years later. Both items were in the Crescent Ridge home when it was destroyed by the tornado. The family rummaged through debris for weeks, even using a metal detector to try to find the military medal.

"Everyone had given up, but I said as long as there was dirt, I wouldn't stop," Margaret Krallman said.

Staff Sgt. Krallman served in the 81st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army on Angaur Island in the South Pacific where, on Sept. 15, 1944, he walked up to a machine gun nest and put up his arms over his face to protect himself. He lived, but his arms were shredded by the gunfire and he lost a thumb.

Krallman, who died in 1983, attributed his survival to his wife. The day of the attack was also his wedding anniversary. He said that even after the attack, his mind was on his wife.

"I knew she wouldn't want me to be jittery or afraid, and I wasn't," Krallman told The Paris Express, his hometown newspaper in Arkansas.

After he was injured, Krallman was sent to Northington General Army Hospital in Tuscaloosa, where he underwent a series of surgeries over two years. His wife, Thelma Krallman, moved from Scranton, Ark., to Tuscaloosa to join him while he recovered. Eventually, they made Holt their home, building the one-story house on Crescent Ridge Road in 1959, where they raised their four children, three sons and a daughter.

Margaret Krallman said the largest piece of the house was a section of the kitchen floor that was a few tiles wide, found on the next lot. The folded American flag was supposed to be passed down to their son, Margaret's husband, Larry Krallman, and the military medals to his brother. With so little left of the house and its contents, the flag and the Purple Heart became even more important to them, she said.

"We had looked through so much stuff, and you get to the point where the smell gets to you, and you can't find anything whole," Margaret Krallman said. "The nails were like weapons. There were very few things we could find."

By mid-May, the debris from the house had been bulldozed into a large mound. …

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