Back in May, we were treated to the bittersweet and heartwarming story of 90-year old Laura Mae Davis Burlingame, who took a trip to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans because she had a hunch that her high school sweetheart, who was killed in action by a Japanese sniper, was included in a display. Not only was she right, but she also discovered the diary that he had written for her but had never been delivered to her. A truly amazing story, and it’s not the only of its kind.
Last Saturday, 69-year old Peggy Eddington-Smith attended a ceremony to honor her father, Army Pfc. John F. Eddington, who was killed in action in Italy on June 27, 1944. He was only 25-years old when he died in WWII, and he left behind his wife, who would give birth to Peggy, their only child, just days later. What Peggy didn’t know for almost 70 years was that her father wrote a letter to her before he was killed, and on Saturday she read that letter for the very first time.
The chain of events that prompted the delivery of John Eddington’s long-lost letter to his daughter began a dozen years ago, when a woman in St. Louis, Donna Gregory, was helping to clean out the Arnold, Missouri, home of her now ex-husband’s grandparents and came across a box of World War II memorabilia. Among the items in the box were the letter Eddington wrote to his young daughter, his Purple Heart medal (awarded to those who are wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military), his high school diploma and draft card, and a message from the War Department telling his family he had died. Moved by what she had discovered, Gregory, now 46 and an accountant, began a years-long quest to locate Eddington’s relatives so she could return the box. (Via The History Channel)
Not content to simply send the items to Patty, Donna Gregory, who had no idea how her family even ended up with John’s belongings, also hand delivered them to her in Nevada with a little help from some friends.
In September, Gregory made a road trip from St. Louis to Nevada to hand deliver the box she had found to Eddington-Smith. She was escorted on her cross-country journey by members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle organization, which attends memorial services for members of the U.S. military and first responders. At the ceremony in Dayton, a World War II veteran presented Eddington-Smith with her father’s Purple Heart, and Gregory read from John Eddington’s letter to the assembled crowd. In the letter, the soldier told his daughter how much loved her and said she should always treat her mother right.
I’m not even going to lie; it took some serious focus and concentration to hold back the waterworks on this one. What an incredible story.
(Banner image via History and Getty)