“My first reaction was, ‘He’s a Roland, he’s got that Roland smile,’” said Struble, a lifelong resident and Mayor of Westover, PA.
Struble had just finished a phone conversation with someone asking about a distant relative who died in WWII, Private James E. Roland.
Roland died in 1944 serving in the U.S. military during WWII in Anzio, Italy.
The Westover, PA native was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart, but somehow that Purple Heart and portrait of the soldier were recently found in a box more than 200 miles north of Westover at Goodwill store in New York.
“A young gentleman was unpacking boxes and came across this purple heart,” Struble said. “God bless him he knew how important it was and he took it to his boss.”
With the help of a group called the Patriot Riders, Roland’s Purple Heart and portrait were soon making the trip back to Pennsylvania, and escorted by motorcycles.
Struble reflected on Saturday’s ceremony officially honoring her distant relative who fought in WWII.
“I think Saturday he was watching down on us and he was very, very proud,” she said. “He was only 30 when he was killed and had no children. He truly gave his life for his country.”
Struble says the family plans to display the Purple Heart and photo in the Westover borough building, where she hopes to start of display of other fallen soldiers from the area.
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