Do you know this veteran? Medals and photo of soldier remain a mystery

Terry Purke, Miami Valley Veterans Museum curator, looks over medals and a photo of an unknown soldier.
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Terry Purke, Miami Valley Veterans Museum curator, looks over medals and a photo of an unknown soldier.

CONCORD TWP., Miami County – A plain brown frame bearing a photo of what is believed to be a World War II soldier and an array of medals and ribbons has caught the attention of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum and others hoping for help in identifying the man.

The shadow box arrived at the veterans’ museum in Troy along with a collection of military patches and other materials collected by the late Avey Larck of Tipp City and donated by his wife, Lora.

Before he passed away, Larck obtained the shadow box at a flea market and, according to his wife, may have known the man pictured, said Terry Purke, veterans’ museum curator.

An exploration of the photo and shadow box contents revealed no information on the soldier’s identity, but a patch pointed to service in the 16th Armored Division, a tank division Purke said was formed near the end of the war.

“We assume these are his ribbons and awards. Why else would they be in here?” Purke said

Other items in the shadow box include another patch indicating service earlier in the war with the 45th Infantry Division.

It also holds a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a National Service Emblem, an American Defense Ribbon and a good conduct medal.

The shadow box arrived at the veterans’ museum in Troy along with a collection of military patches and other materials collected by the late Avey Larck of Tipp City and donated by his wife, Lora.
Caption
The shadow box arrived at the veterans’ museum in Troy along with a collection of military patches and other materials collected by the late Avey Larck of Tipp City and donated by his wife, Lora.

Ribbons in the shadow box indicate a longevity in service with stars for campaigns in Africa, Italy, France and Germany.

An anomaly is a single stripe in the shadow box and pictured on the man’s uniform, Purke said.

“Here is a guy - looking at the story through ribbons – who has been in the whole course of World War II and yet when they get to end of it, he is a private first class, the second lowest rank you can have in the army,” Purke said. “Just by purposes of longevity, he was in four campaigns. How could he go through all of that and never get above a private first class?”

There could be an explanation, but again, without identification or a record, it is unknown, Purke said. “Sometimes soldiers will get promoted and then get broken back for disciplinary reasons, sometimes they just resign in effect the responsibly and go back to basic (service) or there could be another reason,” he said.

Attempts to identify the solider have been made by Purke and his wife, Karen Purke, museum executive director, along with Kathy Hoffman of Kentucky.

Hoffman and her husband joined in the search after being contacted by the museum about the shadow box.

Kathy Hoffman’s father was in the 16th Armored Division. She and her husband are heavily involved in the association with Kathy serving as secretary/treasurer and newsletter editor as well as Facebook page editor. They traveled to the museum this summer to view and examine the shadow box.

“I have put this on Facebook and have published it in our newsletter with no results,” Hoffman said. She contacted the Dayton Daily News hoping an article and publication of a shadow box photo would help lead to identification.

Purke also attempted to contact the association for those who served in the 45th, but was told the organization no longer was active.

There is always another possibility. “Is it possible some miscellaneous collector assembled all of these medals and that picture and put them together? It is possible, you always have to think of that,” Purke said.

Anyone with information to share about the shadow box is asked to contact Terry Purke at the museum at 937-214-0438.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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