Living History: EL Student Finds and Returns WWI Purple Heart Certificate

EL junior Anthony Blasi and Alice Thyng when Blasi returned the Purple Heart.

EL junior Anthony Blasi and Alice Thyng when Blasi returned the Purple Heart.

By Alex Lally, ’14

Edward Little High School junior Anthony Blasi was at a yard sale a few weeks ago in South Paris, just casually looking around at the items for sale. Blasi’s mom found what looked like artwork from World War I.The poster had a picture of a soldier on his knee and an angel knighting him. There was a saying on the bottom: “Served with honor in the world war and was wounded in action.”

“My mom showed my dad and they bought it thinking it was a poster. I thought it was cool at first,” said Blasi, who has a marked interest in military history.

Upon further research, Blasi realized that it was actually a Purple Heart certificate, the recognition given to soldiers who are injured or killed in action. There are two types of the award: an actual medal and a large certificate. The certificates were given out in World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War due to the large number of casualties and the fact that many Purple Hearts were given on the spot. The certificates are very rare and the total number are unknown due to the 1973 National Archive Fire burning most of the records of people receiving the award.

Alice Thyng with her father's Purple Heart certificate from World War I.

Alice Thyng with her father’s Purple Heart certificate from World War I.

Blasi examined the certificate and saw some writing on the bottom. “At first I couldn’t understand the writing, but I eventually saw a name, Woodworth, and a unit number,” said Blasi. Blasi searched for the name, Melville Woodworth, on Ancestry.com to find out more information about the soldier, and any known children that the he may have had. He eventually found two surviving children, one of them was Alice Thyng of. “I wanted to know if it was their father’s. I tried calling one of his sons, but I got no response, however, I did manage to call his daughter and asked if she wanted it back. I told her I found a Purple Heart with her father’s name on it. She asked me to come down to South Paris to see what this was all about,” said Blasi. A few weeks ago, Blasi did, bringing her back her father’s decades-old award.

“When we first meet we became friends instantly. We got along very well and we were both so happy that I managed to return the Purple Heart,” said Blasi.

Thyng was startled by the Purple Heart. “It was a great honor,” she said. “I don’t know if I could describe it. I guess I thought I was going to be a postcard. It was astonishing.

A close up of a similar WWI Purple Heart award.

A close up of a similar WWI Purple Heart award.

 

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