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After 70 Years, Purple Heart Returns To Stowe Veteran's Family

Ric Cengeri
Dorothy Wescom displays the Purple Heart that her father, Private First Class Cedric Laraway, received in France during World War II. Purple Hearts Reunited receives two or three medals a week that have been separated from the veterans who earned them.

The Purple Heart is a military honor given to service members who are wounded or killed while serving. But for various reasons, medals can become lost or separated from their recipients over time.

The Vermont non-profit Purple Hearts Reunited has been working to return lost medals to the descendants of their original recipients. Since 2012, the group has returned over 150 military artifacts to families and military halls of honor across the country.

Purple Hearts Reunited was founded by Vermont Army National Guard Captain Zachariah Fike, who received a Purple Heart during his service in Afghanistan.

Recently, a Purple Heart was reunited with the family of Private First Class Cedric Laraway. Private Laraway was born in 1918 and the Stowe native enlisted in the Army in November 1943. He served with the 314th Regiment, 79th Infantry Division in France. 

Hannah Doyle is with Purple Hearts Reunited, and she presided over the Laraway ceremony held at the Stowe Historical Society.

"One of the neat things about this whole process is being able to fill in some of the gaps for the families at some times, you know," says Doyle. "Sometimes we don’t know all the details of a veteran’s life and then we start digging in with the impetus of a lost medal and we find out all kinds of things."

Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
Dorothy Wescom, daughter of Private Laraway, accepts her father's Purple Heart from Hannah Doyle of Purple Hearts Reunited in Stowe.

Dorothy Wescom, 74, came from Florida for the ceremony, and composed a note for the occasion to honor her father’s service and memory:

“Cedric Charles Laraway was my dad. He joined the Army to help defend our country. He left his family behind. That must have been difficult to know he might not ever see them again. He was going to miss them and the things that children do. He was going to a totally new way of life, fighting in a war. It must have been a terrifying experience. Dad did his best, but that didn’t save him. He died in action. He didn’t come back home. No, he was lost. Lost in the battle, never to see his family ever again.”

Private Laraway's medal is just one Purple Heart that has been successfully reunited with family; Hannah Doyle says the organization receives two or three medals a week that have been separated from the veterans who earned them. 

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
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