Adrian Daily Telegram: Purple Heart awarded to soldier posthumously
By: Dan Cherry
A Purple Heart was presented Wednesday to the family of the man for whom the Durkee-Seager Post 550 American Legion of Onsted in part is named.
Michigan National Guard Col. Jim Bartolacci, along with U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg and state Sen. Bruce Caswell, presented the award for Pfc. Frank Durkee of Co. B, 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, who died in 1918 while serving during World War I. The military award was presented to Durkee’s great-nephews, Richard and Scott Durkee of Tecumseh, on behalf of their father, Royce, who died Tuesday.
The award was given after recent research by his family and the post showed Frank Durkee never received the award for which he was eligible. According to research provided by great-great nephew Elijah Shalis, Durkee was serving in France and was returning from the front lines with intelligence when a sniper mortally wounded the 22-year-old Onsted soldier. He was able to relay the information he collected before dying on Oct. 16, 1918. Durkee is buried in France but a memorial honoring him is on display in the village.
“Tonight we celebrate a life well-served, but a short life,” Walberg said during the presentation before an audience of more than three dozen Legion and community members. “We honor a man willing to put himself in harm’s way for a great ideal, the ideal of freedom.”
Caswell echoed Walberg’s words with a similar tribute.
“As long as this country produces people like Frank, we’ll be OK,” Caswell said. “As long as we as communities stick together and remember those who give us our freedom, we as a community and nation will be OK.”
Richard said the Purple Heart will be permanently displayed at the legion post.
“That was our father’s wishes,” he said as tears welled in his eyes. “He was really excited about this and was looking forward to being here.”