ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Some Patriot Guard riders are taking an almost 2,000 mile journey to deliver a Purple Heart given to a World War II soldier who died in battle to the daughter he never met.
The journey roots from one woman's discovery 12 years ago. Donna Gregory discovered a box with old "war department" and personal letters hidden away in her ex's grandparents' closet. At the bottom of the box she discovered a Purple Heart medal and a letter addressed to a soldier's infant daughter written just before he died, telling her how much he loved her.
No one in the family could tell her who the soldier was or where the medal came from. Gregory took the box home, and spent countless hours researching who the soldier was, ultimately learning that his name was Private John Eddington, who had a daughter on Feb. 5, 1944.
Eddington died four months later in Italy. He was buried at Jefferson Barracks, and grew up in Leadwood, Mo.
Gregory found out that his daughter was in Nevada, but couldn't quite find out where she lived. A few months ago, she took to Facebook to widen her search, and soon, with the help of both friends and strangers, she was able to find Eddington's daughter: Peggy.
"It wasn't until I turned to social media that it all started to come together," Gregory said. "I found the first relative, the first cousin, and then I eventually found her grandson and her son on Facebook, and that led me to her."
Peggy never knew that the letter or Purple Heart existed, and Gregory began saving up money to make the trip to Nevada to deliver it herself. She then solicited help from the Patriot Guard, saying that she thought it would be more meaningful if veterans gave Peggy the medal. Gregory wants to give her the letter herself.
"This has been a long time coming," she said. "Knowing that I'm just a few days away from meeting [Peggy] is just overwhelming."
The Patriot Guard left the Soldiers Memorial at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday to make the journey to Carson City, Nevada. Patriot Guard riders coordinated with riders in other states to make sure that Gregory continually had a guard with her.
"It's unbelievable, after all these years," Patriot Guard rider Bob Smith said. "Not only finding the medal but the goodness of [Gregory's] heart to be able to track down the daughter, just to get everything to her."
As for the 1,800 mile ride? Smith said its just a way to thank Effington for fighting in World War II all those years ago.
"It's the least I can do for a man like him," Smith said.