After Decades, Dayton Woman Finally Receives Late Father's Medal - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

After Decades, Dayton Woman Finally Receives Late Father's Purple Heart Medal

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A Missouri woman's journey to find the family of a fallen soldier ended in Dayton Saturday.

Donna Gregory of St. Louis spent more than a dozen years trying to return a Purple Heart medal and a special letter to the daughter of a World War II soldier.

"I had waited so long to give her a hug," Gregory said. "We had talked many times since I actually located her a few months ago."

69-year old Peggy Eddington-Smith never met her father, Private First Class John Eddington of Missouri, who died in Italy about four months after she was born in 1944.

"My mother was very closed about it," Eddington-Smith said. "She was very distraught, and so, it was 69 years of knowing nothing."

Thousands of miles away from Dayton, Gregory had some things that belonged to Pfc. Eddington, like his Purple Heart medal and a letter written to Peggy several weeks after she was born while he was stationed in Texas. It was written right before he was shipped overseas, and it talks about how much he adored Peggy and how much he loved her mother.

Donna found the items in a box while helping her ex-husband clean out his grandparents' home in the St. Louis area. Peggy and Donna both tell me they are unsure how Pfc. Eddington's items ended up there. Either way, Gregory told me she knew she had to find Peggy after seeing that box.

"I believe that her father loved her so much," Gregory said. "She deserved to know that, and I never knew whether she was the one who had this stuff, or if she had ever seen this stuff."

Gregory spent 14 years trying to track her down, calling every Eddington in Missouri, but she was unsuccessful at that point. Then, with the help of some friends, she found Peggy on Facebook. She then decided to make the trek from Missouri to Nevada to personally deliver the medal and letter to Peggy.

Gregory then received a Patriot Guard motorcycle escort to Nevada for a formal ceremony inside Dayton Intermediate School on Saturday.
Many in the crowd shed tears during the hour and a half ceremony, especially when Gregory spoke to the crowd about her experience. She also read Pfc. Eddington's letter to Peggy, who was later presented with her father's Purple Heart medal. She was also given several other items like his dog tags, his Bronze Star medal and a Gold Star flag honoring his military service.

"I did not know he was honored so much," Eddington-Smith said. "I knew about the Purple Heart, but I thought it was thrown away. But, the other ones, I didn't have any pictures of him in his uniform or anything."

Gregory was also presented a plaque from the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Dayton as a token of appreciation for her dedication to find Peggy and honor fallen veterans.

Peggy tells me she plans on trying to find out more about her father. She says she'll be searching ways to get a hold of family members on his side of the family.

Written by Adam Varahachaikol


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