RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – More than 100 years after the end of World War I, the artifacts of two soldiers who served have been sent home to Richmond.
On Wednesday, Erin Faith Allen with Purple Hearts Reunited, a Vermont-based nonprofit, traveled to Central Virginia to collect several artifacts belonging to veteran Sergeant William V. Archer and Captain Albert Richardson “Bert” Montague with historians and their families.
“Oh my God,” said local resident Bronwen Hall. “Yeah, these are my grandfather’s. “
Thanks to the work of Purple Hearts Reunited, Hall first held his WWI grandfather’s field binoculars on Wednesday. Allen said the association acquired the twins when she was working with the daughter of a World War II veteran. His father was a collector of historical objects.
“We don’t know how he got hold of those binoculars,” Allen said. “After her passing the twins were in one of her WWII trunks with all her army items, and we visited her daughter for another project, and knowing Purple Hearts Reunited and what we do, she gave us the binoculars and asked us to reunite them with the family.
Hall said she did not own any photographs of her grandfather and did not recall information about her service. But she remembered visiting him and his wife in Chicago.
“I just have pictures in my head,” Hall said. “They were special people. They were our only living grandparents.
Hall’s grandfather, Cpt. Montague served with the 309th Engineers. An address was written on the case of the field binoculars he allegedly used, which helped Purple Hearts Reunited connect Hall with the family artifact.
“I hadn’t realized how brutal and horrific it was, and I’m so glad he got away with it,” Hall said. “It means a lot to me. His name is just below. Wouldn’t it be nice to think he wrote this and it went on all these years? “
Earlier in the day, Allen presented David Limmer of the Chesterfield Historical Society with several artifacts that belonged to Sgt. Archer, who served with the 117th Trench Mortar Battery, 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division. Allen said the nonprofit was unable to locate Archer’s family, but determined that Archer was from Chesterfield County. Previously, Purple Hearts Reunited presented the Chesterfield Historical Society with Archer’s Purple Heart Medal after being wounded in battle. So Allen said it made sense to keep the items together.
Items on display at the Chesterfield Historical Society on Wednesday included name tags, an identification bracelet, crucifixes and French souvenir cards.
“We hope people can recognize the humanity and the individual life that remains in objects like these,” Allen said. “In Archer’s case, at the moment we don’t have a photo of him, but his objects can tell the story of a man who served and shed blood for this country.”
Limmer said these newly received artifacts will be added to the Chesterfield Historical Society’s collection, preserved and used for future World War I exhibits.
“Receive historical artifacts on people, places, artifacts from old buildings, etc. is – we are very grateful because it helps to perpetuate and educate the public about our history, ”he said.
According to a statement, Purple Hearts Reunited returned medals and artifacts to more than 850 families, museums and houses of honor, including the Chesterfield Historical Society. Wednesday’s presentations were part of a mission to return items from 13 veterans of World War I, World War II and Korean War to Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland during the coming week.