WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tears and hugs followed a long-overdue moment of recognition for an area World War I veteran last week.
Joe Hish, and his son, Joe Hish IV, were both on hand Aug. 7 as “Trojan Joe’s” father was awarded the purple heart he earned in France a century ago.
The ceremony, part of an “Eight on Seven” cermony Aug. 7, was orchestrated by Major Zachariah Fike, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited.
Fike was able to present PFC Joseph Hish’s medal, along with seven others, during the Aug. 7, ceremony in Washington DC.
Fike had contacted Hish in Hartington earlier this summer to tell him about the celebration and the all-expense paid trip to Washington to take part in the ceremony.
“I just couldn’t believe it when he called,” Hish said. “To track down this medal,and then to be able to track me down — that took some doing,”
Hish learned a new appreciation for his father during the event.
Private First Class Joseph Mark Hish served in the United States Army during World War One, but never one to put the spotlight on himself — his family knew little about his service.
Joseph “Trojan Joe” Hish knew his father had burned his lungs when he was exposed to mustard gas during WWI, but what he was not aware of was that his father received the Purple Heart medal for his service.
During the Eight on Seven ceremony, Hish was able to see his father’s medal for the first time.
Purple Hearts Reunited is a nonprofit organization that is set to return lost, stolen, or even sold Purple Hearts to the families to which they belong.
Airforce Veteran Joseph M. Hish was able to gain so much more than just his father’s Purple Heart that day. With the help of both Purple Hearts Reunited and the World War One Centennial Commission, Hish was also presented with documents he never thought he would see: his father’s draft card, his service transportation papers, as well as his own draft card.
At the ceremony, the following biography was read by David Hamon who is with the United States World War I Centennial Commission, the Economic Warfare Institute, and the Cross-Boarder Research Association:
“I was born 06 January 1895 in Ridge Township, Shelby County, Illinois to Joseph Wesley and Jennie D. Love Hish. I would go onto enlist in the U.S. Army and served with Company A, 341st Machine Gun Battalion, 177th Infantry Brigade, 89th Infantry Division in World War I.
My unit went by rail from New York, through Montreal to Halifax and sailed thence to London, joining the Division at its point of concentration, a rest area near the quaint old cathedral city of Winchester.
I saw fierce combat during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from 29 September to 11 November 1918. During this fighting, I was gassed and for my injuries I received a Purple Heart. I survived my injuries and the war, returning home to begin a family.”
The elder Hish died Dec. 29, 1963, and is buried in the Logan Park Cemetery, Sioux City, Iowa.
“Trojan Joe” Hish served in the military himself, serving his country in the United States Air Force for over 20 years with tours in Korea and Vietnam.
Purple Hearts Reunited had a goal of 100 World War I medals to be returned in honor of the 100 years of the Armistice, Major Fike said.
Fike said they have been able to surpass their goal and will continue to work to reunite families, such as the Hish family, with their loved one’s medal.