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WWII memento tugs at vet's heartstrings

HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- Richie Powers of Sun City Hilton Head was a World War II Marine who came home with a metallic hand-warmer found somewhere on Okinawa.

Japanese writing etched on its side raised Powers' hope that it was a person's name, maybe the item's owner. But a Hilton Head Islander fluent in Japanese said the writing is a brand name.

Powers doesn't like to talk about the war. But life has taught him why a piece of metal might be meaningful to the soldier's family today.

He witnessed countless casualties on both sides as he and fellow Marines cleared the Pacific island.

Powers spent 27 years in the New York Police Department in the dangerous Emergency Services Division.

He and his NYPD partner, Patrick J. O'Connor, climbed the Brooklyn Bridge to talk down jumpers. They were in gunfights. They broke up armed standoffs.

O'Connor was killed in the line of duty, and Powers was devastated.

With the blessing of his wife, Marge, Powers became the surrogate father of his partner's four young children. The two boys became New York police officers.

Powers can flip through scrapbooks in his home with its American flag fluttering by the door.

And he can look at a hand-warmer.

"I didn't think anything of it at the time," he said.

"But now I'm 83. Maybe I have more sympathy, or more compassion. It belonged to a soldier who was loved and cared for."

Powers and his wife, Marge, hoped it could warm the hands of the soldier's grandson.

Now they will pray for the family, whoever they are.

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