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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — More than 70 years after the death of a Pennsylvania soldier in World War II, his medals have finally been returned to his family.
It all started far beneath the Pennsylvania Treasury in a vault stocked with relics and artifacts from the past. Some of those items are military medals from countless wars and tours of duty. Among them, dozens of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars.
Those very medals were presented Wednesday to Rusty Barclay, the nephew of Private First Class Charles Sevier. Sevier was 19 years old when he was killed in action in Germany on April 5, 1945.
The medals and other family heirlooms, including jewelry, buttons and documents, had been locked away in that vault for decades.
Recently, reuniting these awards and other items with families has become a top priority for the Treasury.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is unbelievable,” Barclay said, as Treasurer Joe Torsella slowly unpacked a box full of old items.
In addition to the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, the box also had a citation detailing Sevier’s death.
Barclay held back tears, choking up while holding the citation, saying he had been searching for the document but hadn’t found it. He read part of it aloud.
“Private Sevier and two comrades were manning an outpost in Wurzburg, Germany when a strong enemy counterattack under cover of intense machine-gun and small-arms fire quickly overrun the position,” Barclay read.
His mother and Sevier were siblings. Barclay said the two were inseparable
“They were best friends. To the day she died, she never stopped talking about him,” Barclay said.
She often talked about the military items, but they were never found until shortly after Barclay began his own search for his uncle’s lost treasures.
“It happened when I was really actively starting to concentrate on him, and [it came] just out of the blue,” Barclay said.
“Every one of these represents a story of service and sacrifice,” said Torsella, who calls his team’s work a labor of love. “That’s why we’re doing this: to keep these lives alive and to keep these stories alive.”
“These kids sacrificed their whole future, and those that came home didn’t come home whole a lot of times,” Barclay said.
The Treasury often takes ownership of items after safety deposit boxes are turned over from banks or go into delinquency. One thing they never sell is those military medals. Those remain in the vault with the hope of a reunion like this one.