Last week a story related to the very late receipt of a Purple Heart from World War II was published ( http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/19/purple-heart-given-to-wwii-soldier-daughter-7-decades-later/ ). This was no ordinary “late award” story. The military did not make a mistake and lose track of things. The reality is both stranger and more impressive.
The original recipient of the award was PFC John Eddington of Missouri, a soldier in Italy during World War 2. The finder of the award was Donna Gregory, whose only relation to PFC Eddington was that she was helping her husband clear out his grandparents home. The box also contained a letter from the War Department to Eddington’s mother, informing her of his death.
The relationship between his mother and the grandparents of Donna Gregory’s then-husband is unknown, but the box troubled her. With the Purple Heart was a very personal letter from the soldier to his new daughter, who was only four months old at the time of his death. The letter told about how much she meant to him.
Donna Gregory made it her mission to find that daughter – to give her the medal and the letter. It took her 14 years of searching but finally, earlier this year, she found Peggy Smith, John Eddington’s daughter, now 69. Peggy Smith knew that her father received a Purple Heart but she didn’t know what had become on it – the subject of her father was far too painful for her mother to discuss. In fact, she knew very little about her father.
Thanks to the dedication of Donna Gregory, who went far beyond what anyone would expect, and the advent of social media which finally provided a breakthrough in her search, Peggy Smith now has her father’s Purple Heart. More importantly, she has the letter he wrote to her so long ago.
Donna Gregory is a true hero. She went far beyond what most people would do, spending her own time and resources with no expectation of a reward – just the desire to complete the circle begun when PFC John Eddington wrote a letter to his infant daughter from that battlefield so far away.
Next time you find yourself in a position to make a choice – to spend some of your own time and effort to help, or to just pass on – remember Donna Gregory, who spent 14 years to bring a lost letter and a lost award back to the family of a man lost long ago.
I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.