HUNTINGTON — After attending what was then known as Marshall College, Frederick John Delahunt, a Huntington native, enlisted in the Army Air Forces at the end of 1941, joining 6th Fighter Squadron, 82nd Fighter Group. He would never return home.
Delahunt was killed in action in 1944 in northern Africa, where he was buried. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his sacrifice.
More than 70 years later, that Purple Heart found its way to a Goodwill in Arizona, and thanks to Delahunt’s nephew and the nonprofit Purple Hearts United, the medal will now serve as a reminder of one son of Marshall’s sacrifice to his country.
Jessica Jaggars, director of operations for Purple Hearts United, presented the medal Friday to Jonathan McCormick, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at Marshall University. The medal will reside in the veterans lounge in Gullickson Hall.
Delahunt’s nephew requested the medal be given to Marshall so that his uncle’s sacrifice could be honored by all, Jaggars said.
“When I first found out, my first thought was how great it is that there is an organization that does this,” McCormick said. “It’s so important to remember the sacrifices these men and women made.”
Purple Hearts United is a nonprofit foundation that returns lost, stolen or misplaced medals of valor to veterans or their families in order to honor their sacrifice to the nation. Since its beginning, the organization has returned over 650 lost medals in 42 states.
Jaggars said her organization currently has about 1,000 medals they are working to return.
“Life just happens, sometimes,” Jaggars said. “People go in with the best intentions, put a loved one’s medal in a box or a drawer. People pass away and people move. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the significance of a Purple Heart.”
McCormick said it’s fitting to have the medal at Marshall. In 2018, the university was designated the first Purple Heart University in West Virginia by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The designation recognizes the university’s service to Purple Heart veterans.
“We have a designated parking spot for Purple Heart veterans outside of Gullickson Hall, so this will be a nice addition to our continued efforts to support our veterans,” McCormick said.
Jaggars said it’s also fitting to have the medal at a university that can continue to teach its history.
“To have a fellow veteran understand the significance of it, I think it’s in a great place,” Jaggars said.
Purple Hearts United also returned Richard Earl Gregor’s Purple Heart to his home county of Marion on Thursday. Gregor, of Farmington, West Virginia, was killed in action in Okinawa in 1945. His medal was given to Purple Hearts United by a good Samaritan. Because no next of kin could be located, the medal was given to the Marion County Historical Society.