Returned: 2013 Location: Cumberland County, NC
For Mike Scott, David Taylor and Jim Schaller, it’s about remembering a life of service, honoring the ultimate sacrifice and is simply the right thing to do.
Scott, the county’s veterans services officer, Commander Schaller and Service Officer Taylor of the Winston Salem chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, will be traveling to Tennessee in soon to return a piece of a family’s history lost for decades.
It all began a year-and-a-half ago or so, Scott said.
“Someone locally, and I don’t know who it was, bought a framed photo at a yard sale because they liked the frame,” he said. “As they were removing the photo, they found a Purple Heart certificate behind the picture and dropped it by our office.”
The certificate was awarded to Private Alfred B. Haire, who was killed in action on April 25, 1943. The discovery set off an exhaustive search for Haire’s family. “We researched it locally as much as we could trying to locate family members, with no success,” Scott said. “At that point, I called the Military Order of the Purple Heart and asked whether they could help.”
Armed with a copy of the certificate, Schaller approached Zachariah Fike, the founder of Purple Hearts Reunited, which seeks to locate lost or stolen medals and return them to their rightful owner.
“Back in January, I was going to Rutherton (N.C.) to meet with (Fike),” Schaller said. “I’d just copied the certificate and asked him whether he could help investigate.”
Several months later, Fike called Schaller and told him he had located a family member in Clark Range, Tennessee.
“It is his nephew, Joe Haire,” Scott said. “He has the actual medal, but had never seen the certificate.”
Private Haire was born in Cumberland County, NC and is buried at Site 797, Section B, of the Salisbury National Cemetery.
He enlisted at Fort Bragg in May 1941 and was killed in Beja, Tunisia on April 25, 1943. He was originally buried in Tunisia before his grave was relocated to Salisbury.
And at this point, it’s just a matter of returning the certificate. Scott said he is planning on driving and returning it in person, saying it’s the least he can do.
“This guy, he was killed in action, dying for his country,” he said quietly as he looked at the yellowing certificate lying on his desk. “It’s almost like his family hasn’t received the recognition they deserve for his service.
“And why this precious certificate ended up in Surry County at a yard sale, who knows?” Scott continued. “But they deserve to have it.”
Schaller agreed. “Something like this doesn’t belong in a yard sale, or a flea market or a pawn shop,” he said. “It’s important that it goes to the rightful owner because of what it means to the family.”
He said he is planning on presenting it to the family in person because he knows how much it means.
“I’d like to see the emotion of the person receiving it,” Schaller said.”I feel like it’s our duty to try and get it back to them.”
More information about Purple Hearts Reunited can be found at www.purpleheartsreunited.org.
Reach Keith Strange at [email protected] or 719-1929.