By Kim Breyley
This past January, Jess Jaggers of the non-profit foundation “Purple Hearts Reunited” traveled throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio ending her trip in Buffalo, New York. Over the course of seven days, she delivered eight, lost-and-then-found Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a WWI Wound Certificate to the applicable veteran’s families “Homes of Honor.” One of these “Homes of Honor” is the local Sly Family. A recently-found Purple Heart had been awarded to the late PFC Warren B. Sly, WWII Private First Class of Trumbull County.
Private Warren Sly is the great uncle of local resident and Sly Family Funeral Home owner, Don Sly. On the evening of Jan. 28, many members of the Sly family gathered to greet Jaggers and accept the returning of the Purple Heart.
“We were first contacted by Purple Hearts Reunited about two and a half years ago, ” said Justin Sly, great-nephew to Private Warren Sly. “They stated they had located Great-Uncle Warren’s Purple Heart and were in the process to secure it with the goal of returning it to our family. They said they would be back in contact once the medal is secured.”
He continued, “We always knew that we had a family member who fought and died in World War II, but did not know much about his story.” The Sly brothers began researching the 317th and the 80th Infantry Division by looking through old family pictures. They found information online and through books about his division. We were able to trace his steps from when he enlisted in July of 1942, his training here in the states, along with his journey to England and France. “We used the website www.findagrave.com to see his gravestone and locate additional pictures,” said Justin. “We are so grateful for Purple Hearts Reunited and were impressed how they were able to secure the medal that somehow was located in South Carolina. Then, to find the family, make contact, provide some personal information about his time in the service and schedule a time to present the framed medal in person was very special and shows how much they care as an organization.”
During the presentation, Jaggers explained the organization, its mission and back story. “Purple Hearts Reunited was founded by Vermont resident, Zachariah Fike,” she said, “who is currently captain in the Vermont Army National Guard who earned a Purple Heart on Sept. 11, 2010 in Afghanistan and is a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.” Jaggers is currently company commander in the Vermont National Guard. “Our mission,” she continued, “is to return lost or stolen military medals of valor to veterans or their families, in order to honor their sacrifice to this nation.”
On the website, purpleheartsreunited.org, it is explained further. “When servicemen and women are wounded, or sacrifice their life at times of War, our country awards them or their family with a prestigious award in the form of the Purple Heart. As time passes, certain circumstances can lead to these medals being misplaced, lost, or even stolen.”
“To date, we have returned more than 600 Purple Hearts,” Jaggers said. “On average we receive about 1.5 Purple Hearts each day.”
The deserving person of this Purple Heart was the late PFC Warren B. Sly, who was born in 1916 in Trumbull County, Ohio to Mary Ellen Rosendahle and Sydney Edwin Sly. He completed two years of high school, worked as a machinist before enlistment on July 20, 1942 and was assigned to the 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division. The 317th Infantry Regiment was reactivated on July 15, 1942 as a subordinate element of the 80th Infantry Division. The regiment trained for two years in Tennessee, Kansas, Arizona, California, and finally New Jersey before departing for England in June 1944. Entering the European continent after D-Day, the regiment experienced its first combat in August 1944 when it assisted in closing the gap at Falaise and spearheaded Third Army’s attack on Nancy, France. PFC Sly died on Sept. 13, 1944 and is buried in Lorraine American Cemetery in Moselle, Lorraine, France.
The medal was presented to the family in a framed-windowed box with an opening in the back to expose the engraved name on the back of the Purple Heart.
“We are honored to have his Purple Heart back in our family,” said Don Sly. “We will be displaying the Purple Heart and the documents in the office here at Sly Family Funeral Home in Middlefield, for all to see.”