PLYMOUTH – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the Purple Heart as one of the most respected medals awarded to members of the United States armed forces.
First introduced as the Badge of Military Merit by General George Washington in 1782, it is the nation’s oldest military award, according to the department’s website.
Enderby’s Purple Heart, other awards left in 1973 Willard tornado path of destruction
Serving in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971, Jim Enderby earned several awards for his time in the armed forces, including the Purple Heart.
On May 10, 1973, the city of Willard experienced its largest natural disaster to date, as mentioned in an article from the Shelby Daily Globe.
According to well-known Cleveland Meteorologist Dick Goddard, winds as strong as 300 miles per hour fueled a large tornado which devastated the city.
The storm’s path of destruction included the home of Enderby’s girlfriend, where he said all of his military awards were kept.
“They lost about everything,” Enderby said. “I wasn’t really all that worried about it at the time, I mean if it disappeared, it disappeared. What am I going to do?”
As time went by, he admitted he seemed to forget about what he’d lost in the storm.
Plymouth-Shiloh Local Schools Veterans Day ceremony
Enderby was among several veterans in attendance Friday at Plymouth High School for the district’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Students from the district participated in the festivities by reciting essays, singing, and music was also provided by the band.
However, one significant portion of the ceremony was intentionally kept from being printed on the programs distributed to all in attendance.
Plymouth American Legion delivers special surprise
Rick Dropsey of the Plymouth American Legion took the stage and invited Enderby to join him.
In front of family and friends, Dropsey presented Enderby with a shadow box, which displayed the full collection of military awards he’d lost in the tornado, Purple Heart medal included.
Dropsey said he learned about Enderby’s situation about a month ago, while discussing the format for this year’s ceremony at the school.
Members of Enderby’s family were contacted by Dropsey, along with a copy of his discharge papers, which specified the awards and medals he’d lost in 1973, Dropsey said.
“It was an honor,” he said. “Jim (Enderby) is definitely an American hero and served with distinction.”
GALLERY: Veterans Day Ceremony at Plymouth High School
Enderby was ‘proud to serve’ his country
The presentation caught Enderby by complete surprise, who said he had no idea about the special moment Friday.
“This was a shock,” he said. “I did not expect this at all and it was nice to have them (family) all together again. It was beautiful.”
Enderby said he wouldn’t trade his time spent in the service for the world, but it’s something he’s unsure he’d ever want to go back and repeat again.
“I was proud to serve my country,” he said. “I lost a few buddies over there and I remember them every Memorial Day.”
Fellow Purple Heart recipient honored
During the ceremony, Enderby was joined on the stage by fellow Purple Heart recipient Clifford Stumbo, who also served in the United States Army from 1966 to 1968.
Stumbo said he was part of a mechanized infantry unit which fought in the jungles during the Vietnam War.
When Stumbo’s service concluded, he was issued a plaque that could be taken to an Air National Guard station to receive the Purple Heart award, he said.
“Just being out (of service), I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “But my wife, 20 years later, she followed through on it.”
Stumbo said she took the necessary documents to a local Veterans Affairs office and shortly after, he was awarded his Purple Heart medal.
“I give her credit for that,” he said. “It’s nice to show to my kids and my grandchildren. I was proud.”
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