Goodwill yields Purple Heart

By on August 9, 2017

Brian Travis noticed a discolored white cardboard box priced $1.97 on the Goodwill store shelf. Inside was another box inscribed “Purple Heart.”

Purple Heart Day on Tuesday found Brian Travis a bit blue.

For four frustrating months, he has failed to deliver a lost World War II Purple Heart medal to the hero’s family.

Harvey Wert, the Purple Heart recipient, was born in 1921 in Mohnton and died Saturday, June 17, 1944 during the Battle of Normandy.

He is honored at the American Legion Auxiliary Cloister Post 429 War Memorial, located near the Eicher Arts Center, 407 Cocalico St. in Ephrata.

Wert’s unlikely link to Travis began while he pursued his hobby of foraging through possible treasures on thrift stores shelves.

On the morning of April 6 he noticed a discolored white cardboard box priced $1.97 on the shelf of the Goodwill store in Shillington near Reading.

Inside was another box inscribed “Purple Heart.”

Inside that was a heart-shaped medal with a one-and-a-half inch wide gold border around a profile of Gen. George Washington.

A shield of George Washington’s coat of arms — a white shield with two red bars and three red stars in chief — between green leaves. On the back is a raised bronze heart inscribed “For Military Merit” below the coat of arms and leaves.

“At first I didn’t think it was real,” Travis said. “The white faded box looked old but I thought ‘How could a World War II Purple Heart get here’?”

He showed it to a friend who confirmed its authenticity.

“The last time I saw a Purple Heart like that was when my boyfriend was killed in Vietnam,” she told him.

So what was Travis to do?

“Then I saw the name (Harvey Wert) on the back and found some information on PFC Wert online,” he said. “But I could not locate any relatives.”

Travis was determined to reunite the medal with the family. He contacted Captain Zachariah Fike of Purple Hearts Reunited online and sent the medal to the organization in Vermont for framing.

Fike found the name and number of Wert’s nephew in Mohnton.

They both spoke on the phone with him to learn the medal was inadvertently donated to Goodwill during the process of cleaning out a third-generation home.

“We were planning to present the medal to him and other relatives on the Sunday before Memorial Day at the Ephrata War Memorial where PFC Wert’s name is listed,” Travis said.

He left a couple voicemails, but never heard back from the family.

“I went to the memorial that day just in case someone showed up,” he said. “No one came. It appears that the family has moved and I do not have a contact number for them.”

Travis could say that maybe it was meant to be.

If PFC Harvey Wert’s Purple Heart wasn’t lost, his story wouldn’t be told 73 years after his death.

This hero’s history is no longer forgotten among the people in the area where young Harvey Wert grew up.

Thanks to Travis and Purple Heart Reunited, we know this:

  • PFC Harvey Wert (Service Number: 33483921) was born in 1921 in Mohnton, Pennsylvania to Isaac and Emma Louisa Wert.
  • He had brothers Daniel B., Paul, Stanley, and John. He had one sister, Sallie Elizabeth.
  • Wert would later enlist for service in the U.S. Army on Dec. 3,1942 and was assigned to the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. His unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 7, 1944 and later moved toward the objective of St. Lo, France. Against heavy German resistance, Harvey lost his life on June 17, 1944.
  • Ironically, he paid the ultimate sacrifice on a hill named “Purple Heart Hill”, as the 29th Division sustained over 600 casualties there. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery, Plot G, Row 20, Grave 12.

For his sacrifice, the U.S. Army posthumously awarded PFC Wert the Purple Heart.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

2 Comments

  1. Amy Wells

    August 11, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    I found the Wert family. They should be in contact to have the medal returned.

  2. Wendy Stauffer

    August 11, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    I sold the house in Mohnton that Mr Wert lived in. I will pass along the information and have him contact you! We was wondering why he was never contacted again!

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