The medals of PFC Thomas E. McGraw were returned to his family on November 4th in a 6:00pm ceremony at the Cavalry Club in Manlius, NY. The Purple Heart medal that McGraw was awarded posthumously, lost for decades, was returned to his family, including his daughter Robyn, former wife Sarah, and brother Marty.
Born on 26 May 1946, Thomas Edward McGraw grew up in Syracuse, NY. The son of Francis and Muggsy McGraw, Thomas had four brothers and two sisters. His father was a Sergeant at Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office. McGraw would later go on to serve in the Army, deploying to Vietnam on 14 December 1965. He served in the rank of Private First Class with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. The 7th Cavalry has a long line of tradition, including its first Commander, George A. Custer, and was recently made famous in the movie “We Were Soldiers.” While on patrol, McGraw’s unit was ambushed on 01 February 1966 and the young soldier lost his life. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. His other decorations include the Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 1 Bronze Service Star, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 Device, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Military Merit Medal, and Combat Infantry Badge. He was also an expert with the M16 Assault Rifle and the M60 Machine Gun. McGraw is honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 4E, Row 130. At the time of his death, Thomas was married and had a young daughter, Robyn.
On 20 January 2014, Purple Hearts Reunited was contacted by Karen Galloway, whose son found a Purple Heart on a playground at Willowfield Elementary School in Liverpool, NY roughly 15 years ago, when he was in the fourth grade. On the back of the medal was engraved the name, Thomas E. McGraw. Young Galloway turned it into the school office, but the medal sat unclaimed for over a year, and so was given back to the young boy. The Galloway family held onto it until finding Purple Hearts Reunited. Purple Hearts Reunited was able to locate McGraw’s family and coordinate the ceremony.
The 4 November ceremony was open to the public and well-attended, with over 100 guests, including family and friends. Guest speakers included town representatives, the man who originally presented McGraw’s widow and daughter with his medals, representatives from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Karen Galloway, whose son found the Purple Heart on a playground.
The return of these medals was generously sponsored by Merchants Bank of Vermont.
Photos by James Bass Photography.