Missing Purple Heart returns home after 60-years
|Messenger photo by Tara Figurski
|John Matyskella receives his late brother's Purple Heart at a Veterans Day celebration at the Chalmers P. Wylie Ambulatory Care Center.
It took more than 60 years for a Purple Heart awarded to long-time Westside resident and Army Private First Class Donald Matyskella to find its way home.
It was returned to his loved ones on Nov. 10, one day before Veterans Day, during a celebration held at the Chalmers P. Wylie Ambulatory Care Center.
The efforts of several people, including Whittler Webb, made it possible for the Purple Heart to return to Matyskella’s only surviving sibling, his 86-year-old brother, John Matyskella.
Webb is site supervisor for Way Station¹s Welcome Home Veterans Program, a program in Hagerstown, Md., that provides transitional housing to veterans.
Webb said the Veterans Administration has a history of doing the right thing so it was a logical choice for the medal to be anonymously dropped off to Way Station.
“So much sacrifice was given, it needed to be recognized,” he said.
Webb contacted Phillip Garvey, a veteran service representative at Marinsburg VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va. Garvey in turn, contacted the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) to assist in finding the medal’s rightful owner.
Donald was mortally injured June 7 in Normandy, France, a day after the D-Day invasion during World War II (WWII). He received the Purple Heart posthumously, so it was not registered with the MOPH.
Garvey contacted the U.S. Army to inquire about the medal’s owner and was waiting to hear back when, in October, he had time to research on his own.
He found Matyskella was born in Franklin County and buried in Normandy. Garvey also located the veteran’s name on a tribute wall in Trimble Township in Athens County.
Garvey shared with Paige Alost, executive director for the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the information about the Matyskella family.
Alost, a genealogist, tried spelling the family’s surname several ways during her research. The family’s last name had changed several times since WWII. She found U.S. Census information listing all of his brothers and sisters including his brother, John.
“I was a little speechless,” Alost said. “He was killed in World War II. He was just a kid.”
Lilian Thome, director of Chalmers P. Wylie Ambulatory Care Center, said the Veterans Day ceremony was to honor the men and women who served their nation during times of war and peace.
“We strive to meet the needs of all veterans… and honor soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Thome said.
Garvey turned the Purple Heart over to Buckeye Chapter 500 of the MOPH who presented the award to John. Commander John Flinn said Donald left behind grieving family members who will keep his memory alive.
“In a sense the Purple Heart Medal awarded to PFC Matyskella serves as a touchstone, as it identifies a precious life, indeed precious to his family, but also to this nation and to its history,” Flinn said.
John said he appreciated the efforts made to return the medal to the family.
“I want to say thank you for all the efforts you made to find the family,” he said. “I’m so grateful I am able to accept the medal for my brother.”
John said he was astonished when he received the phone call his brother’s Purple Heart had been recovered.
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