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Police: Please return dead veteran's urn, ashes

A week after the cremated remains of a decorated Korean War veteran were stolen from a van near the Mall, U.S. Park Police on Thursday released a photo of the bronze urn and urged whoever stole it to help ease the grief of the old soldier's family, no questions asked.

"While closure of all criminal incidents is paramount, we understand that simply recovering this item is more important," Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said.

"Should anyone possess this urn and desire to help close this unfortunate tragedy for this family, and wishes to remain anonymous, he or she is asked to contact their local police department and describe where we may find the urn."

In other words: Leave it somewhere safe and walk away. No harm, no foul.

The urn (described incorrectly last week as being made of brass, Schlosser said) holds the ashes of retired Army Col. Norbert Otto Schmidt, a 1949 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Schmidt, of Satellite Beach, Fla., was 83 when he died of pneumonia in August. As a combat engineer in the Korean War, he was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for valor.

The missing urn. (U.S. Park Police.)

Relatives brought the urn to Washington from Florida in a rented van for a planned burial in Arlington National Cemetery. After the van was broken into Nov. 12 while parked in the 300 block of Jefferson Drive SW, D.C. police initially handled the case. But Schlosser said Park Police took over the investigation this week after realizing that the theft occurred in federal jurisdiction.

"Detectives are making the recovery of this urn and contents a priority to assist the family with the mourning process," Schlosser said.

A day after the theft, Schmidt's service at Arlington took place as scheduled, the Army's Old Guard honoring the deceased colonel with all its solemn pomp: a tri-folded U.S. flag, a horse-drawn caisson, rifle volleys and a bugler sounding taps. But with the urn missing, there was nothing for his family to bury.

-- Paul Duggan

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 20, 2009; 7:51 AM ET
Categories:  Arlington , Paul Duggan , The District  
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Please check every local pawn shop. I pray this mans cremains are returned. What a terrible event for the family!

Posted by: Ross65 | November 20, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

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