It started many years ago, back in the early 1950s. A young man from Wisconsin was sent off to serve his country as part of the Seventh Division/ 31st Regiment of the U.S. Army as an infantryman fighting on the front lines in Korea.
Seeing men injured and killed while in battle can surely change a man’s life in many ways. Being injured during combat, sent to a field aid station for treatment of shrapnel wounds to the left wrist and biceps and then being sent back to battle the next day can leave lasting, difficult memories.
During that medical treatment there was one special and very positive thing to recall: being presented with a Purple Heart medal by an officer.
The downside of that was the fact the medal was presented and suddenly gone within a short few moments later — whether it was lost or stolen will never be known. Add to that the fact that now some 65 years later it has been near impossible to find any record of that one positive thing that happened during the hell they called the Korean War.
For many years the story went untold as Donald Voigt was always a quiet and humble man who felt he did what he was asked by his country to do — leave the National Guard he’d started with and transfer to the U.S. Army. He reported to Korea to fight along with his fellow soldiers face-to-face against the enemies in a country far, far from rural Wisconsin.
His wife knew the story and the kids likely heard of it also over time, but it was a story Don usually kept “under his hat.” Now, sadly both of his two sons have tragically passed, as has his wonderful wife of many years, leaving only his two daughters as his immediate family.
His Purple Heart was never investigated or looked into back in the days when Don was still a young man with a keen recollection of that traumatic time in the military, which now makes the research seem to become possibly unattainable.
As of the fall of 2018, I started doing research into this lost/stolen Purple Heart that was so well deserved, given the intense level of fighting Don faced as well as the circumstances surrounding the battles he was in and near on Porkchop Hill and the Old Baldy areas in Korea.
There have been inquiries to many levels of the U.S. Army, as well as senators in Illinois and Arizona. Veterans and Purple Heart organizations have been contacted, and John Elskamp of the Veteran’s Legacy Foundation has spent countless hours contacting record keepers in the Seventh Division, as well as the 31st Regiment.
I have spoken to news organizations and was successful getting the story to print by Amy Lieu of Fox News, which also garnered much interest but no proven documentation of the Purple Heart. Local government offices were contacted, as were driver’s license bureaus in an effort to pin down any proof of this commendation.
As best we can tell, the injury report was not recorded (although he does have the scars to prove the injuries) and hence with no injury report at or from the aid station after the Jeep he was traveling in was blown up and the occupants sent for treatment, there also is no report of the awarding of the Purple Heart — an honor he was so very proud of.
Due to the widespread attention to the Fox News article, several people offered suggestions on how to obtain a Purple Heart medal for Don such as eBay, a pawnshop, several governmental agencies and even a few people offered to send theirs or a family member’s on to Don.
Certainly the offers to send their own medals were way beyond what would be expected and definitely not something he’d accept, as he knows he earned his even though he does not have it. He knows they deserved their own Purple Heart medals and they should have them to keep themselves.
He could not accept one of theirs and simply hoped that somehow and someway we could find a way to prove he did receive his own Purple Heart — even if it had been only in his possession for a few short moments.
But lo and behold: In the mail, Don receives a Purple Heart medal in the case with no letter or accompanying documentation. The return address is illegible except the fact it came from Tucson.
The postmaster has been contacted, as well as the supervisor and all the mail carriers in that ZIP code 85704 — no one recognizes the street number or name, the sender’s name or even the handwriting.
Don would really love to return this medal to the most kind veteran along with a handshake and a big hug with thanks to him or her for their kind gesture and surely their own personal sacrifice.
This is where we really need help from anyone who may have suggestions as to who this generous person is. Wouldn’t it be special if these two amazing veterans, who have a Purple Heart medal in common, could meet?
Thanks to John Elskamp and Arizona’s senators, we will likely be able to have Don’s recorded medals presented to him but sadly, it seems, not the Purple Heart as it cannot be proven since documentation of the medal was never listed on his military record.
Don knows the medal was presented to him. Being 86 and suffering from macular degeneration, he has limited vision left and each day pieces of the once clear memory fade. so knowing he was given the medal will have to suffice while having the medals he is entitled to (per records) will still be a welcome gift when that occurs
If anyone has any suggestions on who this caring individual from Tucson might be — we would gladly welcome this information, and we’d love to arrange a meeting of these two exceptional individuals. This would give some closure to Don so he could be sure the rightful owner of this Purple Heart has his own medal back and two worthy vets can embrace and say “Thank you for your service and a job well done!”