After seven decades, a letter from a World War II veteran to his daughter will finally end up in its rightful owner's hands this weekend! Pfc. John Eddington was about to be deployed to Europe in World War II when he learned that his wife had given birth to a daughter named Peggy. He wrote a letter, telling the little girl how much he loved her and wanted to see her. But sadly, he never made it back from the war, and Peggy never met her father ... But his letter and Purple Heart medal both ended up in a box thousands of miles away from Peggy, much like a message in a bottle or a time capsule.
Thankfully, a Missouri woman named Donna Gregory found the box and made it her mission to find Peggy, too, reports the AP ...
Fourteen years ago, Donna was helping her then-husband clean out his grandparents' home in Arnold, Missouri when she stumbled upon a cardboard box filled with WWII memorabilia related to Eddington. No one can really explain what the box was doing there, as Eddington lived in a completely different "neck of the woods" 75 miles southwest of St. Louis. Still, somehow, this box had made its way to that home, and Donna discovered the War Department's message to Eddington's mother about his death in Italy in June 1944, four months after his daughter's birth, the Purple Heart, and the letter Eddington wrote to his daughter while stationed in Texas, just before he was sent overseas. Wow!
Over the course of the next almost decade and a half, Donna did everything she could to track down Peggy. But it wasn't until earlier this year when she started to reach out via Facebook -- oh, the miracle of Facebook! -- that she actually managed to touch base with Peggy Smith, living in Nevada now and of the belief her mother had lost the medal or given it away ... until Donna called.
"It was an unforgettable moment," Donna says, while Peggy could only describe her reaction as "stunned." Aww!
And instead of delivering it herself to Peggy, Donna decided to write a letter to the Patriot Guard Riders, the volunteer organization perhaps best known for patrolling funerals of soldiers to shield relatives from protesters. She said she thought it would be more special if perhaps veterans were to present the Purple Heart to Peggy.
So earlier this week, Donna, her sister, and a friend left St. Louis in an SUV, accompanied by about a dozen motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard. Along the route, different groups of riders are taking turns accompanying Donna. Tomorrow, a parade will begin in Carson City, Nevada and make the 15-mile trek to Dayton, where Peggy will be presented the medal and letter in a ceremony at the high school. Smith's children and most of her 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren will be there. Amazing!!
Though Peggy claims she's "not a big shindig person," she notes she'll be "crying the whole time." As will Donna who says:
I've cherished all of this for a very long time. I've waited for the finale of this journey for over a decade.
Simply incredible. When these two women meet for the first time face to face and Peggy is finally able to read that letter from her father and receive his Purple Heart, it will be such an emotional moment. Here's hoping a local news crew or two capture that moment, because it will be one that is sure to have us all wiping tears from our eyes.
In the meantime, here's a news report documenting Donna and Co. embarking on their journey to Peggy only a few days ago ...
What's your reaction to this amazing story?