Jul 1, 2016 12:34 AM

2 lost WWI Purple Heart medals to be returned in New York

The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A National Guard soldier's ongoing campaign to return lost Purple Heart medals to veterans or their families is taking him back to northern New York where his effort began five years ago.

Capt. Zachariah Fike, founder of Vermont-based Purple Hearts Reunited, is presenting the recovered Purple Hearts of two World War I soldiers during a Friday morning ceremony at the Jefferson County Historical Society in Watertown.

Army Cpl. Ernest Wright of Watertown, who died in 1956, received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in France in 1918. The historical society is getting his medal since no living relatives could be found, Fike said.

Pvt. William Withington of nearby Adams died in combat in France the same year. His great-niece, Nancy Withington Del Borgo of Adams Center, will receive his medal.

Wright's Purple Heart was mailed to Fike soon after he returned his first recovered medal in August 2011. Fike said he purchased Withington's medal on eBay.

Fike, the son of a career soldier formerly stationed at Fort Drum, near Watertown, graduated from a local high school. He started his organization in 2011 as a one-man operation after returning a lost Purple Heart to the family of a Watertown soldier killed during World War II.

"It's great to come back home," said Fike, who lives in Vermont and serves in the Army National Guard. "We've accomplished so much since then."

Since that first returned medal, the organization has returned nearly 300 Purple Hearts to veterans or their families across the country, while another 700 medals are in hand and waiting to be returned, Fike said.


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