- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Medals earned by a Huntsville veteran who was among the thousands who landed in Normandy during World War II have been replaced after they were stolen.

How that happened — and the speed in which it took place — is nothing short of a military Christmas miracle.

Charles Boynton was among a group of 250 soldiers dropped on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Of those, only a handful survived. Boynton received military honors for his service but said the medals were later stolen.

His family sought to have them replaced but was concerned with the amount of time that would take.

Boynton is currently receiving care through Gentiva Hospice of Huntsville. Through the hospice’s We Honor Veterans program it teamed up with Still Serving Veterans, a local group that assists veterans with a variety of needs, to try and speed up the replacement process.

“When I asked Mr. Boynton’s daughter about the medals, she told me that her daughter had applied to receive them, and that they were supposed to arrive in January or February of next year. She also stated that they wanted to surprise Mr. Boynton with them,” said Nicole Simmons, Manager of Volunteer Services at Gentiva Hospice and Chair of North Alabama Hospice Veteran Partnership.

Boynton is battling a serious illness, however, and Simmons knew time was of the essence.

The process of replacing lost medals can be a long one. The actual process can differ depending on the branch of service and different forms are required. Sometimes there is a charge to replace the medals; other times they are provided free to the veteran. There are even various definitions for who qualifies as a next-of-kin — something that makes the requesting process easier — based on the branch of service.

In this case, the Army TACOM (formerly Tank-automotive and Armaments Command) Medal Department, was contacted about the medals.

“When I contacted (TACOM), I left a message stating the purpose of the call,” Simmons said. “Later that day, I received a call from Tina, their representative, who immediately went into action and informed me that the medals would arrive the following week. The next morning I received another call from the Army TACOM Medal Department, informing me that the medals were being shipped over night, and that the family would have them the following day.

“I’m happy to report, that the medals arrived as promised, and the family is overjoyed,” she said.

Boynton was recently presented the medals by retired Col. William Webb, president of Still Serving Veterans. His family was on hand for the ceremony, as were staff from Gentiva and Still Serving Veterans.

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