A Veteran's race against time to return WWI Purple Hearts
By Wilson Ring
ST. ALBANS, Vt. (AP) -- A group that seeks to reunite lost Purple Hearts with service members or their descendants is embarking on an ambitious project: to return 100 such medals or certificates earned in World War I before the 100th anniversary next April of the United States' entry into the conflict.
Zachariah Fike, of the Vermont-based Purple Hearts Reunited, began the project after noticing he had in his collection of memorabilia a total of exactly 100 Purple Hearts or equivalent lithographs awarded for injuries or deaths from the Great War.
"You're honoring fallen heroes," said Fike, a Vermont National Guard captain wounded in Afghanistan in 2010. "These are our forefathers; these are the guys that have shed their blood or sacrificed their lives for us. Any opportunity to bring light to that is always a good thing."
The lithographs, known as a Lady Columbia Wound Certificate and showing a toga-wearing woman knighting an infantry soldier on bended knee, were what World War I military members wounded or killed while serving were awarded before the Purple Heart came into being in 1932. World War I service members who already had a lithograph became eligible for a Purple Heart at that time.
The Purple Hearts and the certificates include the name of the service member to whom they were awarded. Fike is working with researchers to try to find the descendants of the service members.
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