By Heather Kline (Leonard Wood)December 17, 2018
In October 2014, Kristen Davidson, a volunteer at the Fort Leonard Wood USO, received a phone call that led to an unexpected reunion.
"My sister and brother-in-law, Kelly and Peter St. Gelais, purchased a condominium in Dracut, Massachusetts. While going through the home, Pete came across the box of old military things and asked if we could do something with it," Davidson said. "We gladly took it hoping we could get it displayed."
After looking for relatives based on the information in the box and coming up empty, they thought the Fort Leonard Wood USO may be their best chance at finding the rightful owner. Their thought was if no one could eventually be found, the USO would be a great place to display the items for future generations to see and learn from.
Kelly Brownfield, USO Western Missouri Regional Operations director, embarked on a four-year mission to return the service member's war relics.
Over the years, the USO tried to locate the owner of the box without any luck. "We have pulled the items out to see if we could find one more piece to the puzzle," Brownfield said. "I thought; 'why not share it again on social media? Maybe we will have luck this time and find that one piece needed to complete this puzzle.'"
This time, luck was on Brownfield's side. Individuals from all over the world responded to her post resulting in a name and location within hours.
"We shared it, and our inbox started blowing up with possible leads," Brownfield said. "Within a couple hours, we had a name and location."
"I found it surreal that the next day I was talking on the phone with family we spent four years in search of," Brownfield said. "Tears were shed, as they couldn't believe we continued the search for so many years to reunite them with so many items once belonging to their uncle, Lt. Col. Louie Brousseau," Brownfield said.
On Oct. 31, USO of Missouri Executive Director Russ Avery had plans to be in Texas on vacation and hand delivered the box to the family.
According to Brousseau's nephew, Jay Brousseau, Louie lived his entire life in and around Lowell, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter. He served a long stint in the Army National Guard and worked in a local printing press shop until he was in his late sixties.
After the death of Brousseau's daughter, his possessions were donated to a local charity. The family had assumed any records were destroyed.
"We moved on in our disappointment and had no idea any of the effects of our Uncle Louie and Aunt Dora had survived until Gail received a note on Facebook from the good folks at the Missouri USO," Jay said.
He took the box to the family's Thanksgiving gathering in Pearland, Texas.
"After dinner, we pulled the contents of the box out and slowly examined the wonderful black and white prints, records and uniform decor and medals," Jay said. "It was a very complete record of Louie's military service, and we were surprised to find that he was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in World War II."
One of the pieces that grabbed the family's attention was Brosseau's artillery company flag.
"We hope to find a suitable home for his flag with his old company, the 102nd Artillery Company, and donate any of the records and photos they might find useful for their archives and/or museum after we've made some digital copies," he said.
The Brousseau family said they are grateful to the Missouri USO for working so diligently to find them and the opportunity they were given to know and understand their uncle's life and service.
"We are really thrilled to have had the chance to learn more about Louie and his military service, and we are extremely thankful to the incredible and persistent efforts of folks at Missouri USO," Jay said.
Davidson said she is thankful for Brownfield's efforts in finding the family.
"We were all surprised and thrilled when Kelly told us she found a relative. It really shows the power of social media," she said.
"Over the last four years the USO has been proud to hold onto Lt. Col. Brousseau's priceless treasures. We are honored that the Davidson family trusted us to keep them safe," Brownfield said. "The USO of Missouri is extremely honored to say, 'mission completed.'"
(Editor's note: Amanda Sullivan, GUIDON volunteer, assisted with this article.)