(LONDON) — World War II veteran Ronald Brown of Exeter, England, died last week at 94 and left behind a surprising war memento in his cremated remains: six ounces of metal shrapnel.
Brown was on a mission in France in 1944 when he stepped on a land mine and searing metal shrapnel became lodged in his leg, according to the BBC. The 21-year-old then crawled two miles to find help.
Though Brown carried the odd memento with him for nearly 70 years, he often just told people he had a “bad knee.”
“The medics just said it was too close to an artery and stitched him back up again,” Brown’s daughter, Jane Madden, 55, told the BBC.
It’s not unheard of for military veterans to carry unpleasant war mementos inside their bodies, according to Dr. Michael Sise, trauma medical director of Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego.
“Plenty of American veterans of modern wars are carrying around shrapnel,” Sise, a retired Navy surgeon and Gulf War veteran, told ABCnews.com. “People will survive with artillery rounds, small fragments, all sorts of things. It is not uncommon. Now, in the modern era, doing so many CAT scans, we find shrapnel all the time. We ask these patients: Were you in a war? And they often were.”
Removing shrapnel often causes more damage than leaving it in, Sise said, which means Brown’s doctors probably did the right thing in 1944.
Madden told the BBC her father was aware there was something in his leg, but probably had no idea it was nearly half a pound of metal.
“We were told he just had a bullet in his leg,” she said, “because he would tell us: ‘Careful with me bullet, it hurts.'”
Madden’s three daughters hoped to keep the bullet as a way to remember their grandfather and asked the crematorium workers if they’d found it.
“We then got handed this bag of stuff,” Madden said.
Crematorium employees had fished handfuls of gnarled metal from Brown’s ashes.
Amazingly, aside from what Madden said was a long recovery time, her father’s battle wounds “only seemed to affect him in cold weather.”
Madden told the BBC the fragments were a testament to her father’s bravery and will continue to remind the family of the respect they’ve always held for Brown. She added that relatives have changed their minds about what they once thought were the same old war stories.
“There’s a lot of pride in the family about his service now,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio