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Purple Heart veteran dies after saving granddaughter from house explosion

Purple Heart medal (Ed Passi/Flickr)
October 02, 2019

A Purple Heart recipient who served in Vietnam died after saving his granddaughter in a gas explosion at his Oklahoma home, his family says.

Don O’Steen, 69, died last Monday during surgery, family members said on Facebook. He and granddaughter Paetyn, 3, had been in the hospital since an explosion at the home earlier in September left them both with severe burns.

“He was super humble,” son Brendon O’Steen told USA TODAY. “No matter what it was, it was never putting himself first. He was always wanting to help somebody else.”

Don and Paetyn had just returned to his home in Maud, Oklahoma, on Sept. 19 when O’Steen lit a candle. Suddenly, a suspected gas explosion ripped through the house.

Brendon says his father fought his way through a collapsing roof to find Paetyn and protect her. He managed to retrieve the young girl and made it to the end of their driveway.

Don’s wife, Anita O’Steen, happened to be pulling in as the man and young girl were getting out of the house, Brendon said.

“My dad said to her basically he knew he was going to die and to save Paetyn,” Brendon said.

The pair was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Don suffered burns on around 80% of his body, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Paetyn, who was also severely burned, was on a ventilator.

After fighting for days, Don died from a heart attack during an extensive surgery last Monday. Paetyn, luckily, began improving.

Brendon says his daughter has since moved from the PICU and is doing well. The family is waiting to hear how much, if any, of her body will need skin grafting for the burns, according to a GoFundMe page for the medical and housing costs for the family.

Kelby Moore, Brendon’s brother, and Anita are now without a home after the explosion, Brendon said.

“It’s super sudden and super hard,” Brendon said of the past few weeks. “It hasn’t really hit us.”

memorial service for Don will be held at a later date, Brendon said on Facebook. In the mean time, calls, texts and social media posts have poured in honoring the veteran and his heroics.

“He knew that he did his job by saving the life of his Boo Boo Chicken,” Brendon wrote in a Facebook post. “He loved my daughter beyond unconditionally. And he gave it all for her to live.”


© 2019 USA Today