Family of World War I vet receives Purple Heart medal in ceremony
HOOKSETT — Some 96 years after Pvt. Frank Silva Jr. was injured during a battle in France, his family celebrated and honored his military service with an official presentation Friday of a Purple Heart and other honors Silva earned while fighting in World War I.
The Purple Heart and a WWI Victory Medal with several brass clasps commemorating the battles Silva fought during his two years overseas had already been framed. Two patches from Silva’s “Yankee Division” were in the top corners and a black-and-white photo of the young private stood out in the middle of the framed arrangement, which was displayed during the ceremony at American Legion Post 37.
“He wasn’t a guy much for medals, but he was quite a man,” said his son, Frank Silva III, a retired Marine who is commander of the post in Hooksett. “I remember my dad saying that he had been wounded, but I never saw anything.”
It took a little bit of research and a touch of luck to document Silva’s history when Silva III, started searching about six months ago.
The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis said it had no file for Silva, likely lost in a 1973 fire that destroyed an estimated 16-18 million military personnel files.
Silva III contacted U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office and a member of her staff searched records in Massachusetts, where Silva enlisted in the Army National Guard in July 1917. The data card included a reference to Silva, a member of the 101st Field Artillery Unit, being wounded on July 15, 1918 in France. That information was enough for Silva’s family to receive the Purple Heart, which was not presented as a medal until the 1930s.
“I thought it was such an amazing story,” said Shaheen, who presented the official documentation to Silva and his sister, Kathleen Talley, in honor of their late father.
“It’s really nice to be here with Frank and the whole Silva family to award these medals posthumously to Frank’s father,” she said.
Silva III, who served two tours in Vietnam, said his father was quiet in general and like many soldiers did not like to speak about his experiences in the trenches of France. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1919, Frank Silva Jr. spent more than 30 years as a police officer in Boston and Somerville, Mass. He died in 1949.
“I didn’t have any of his medals. I didn’t know where they went over the years,” Silva said. “His medals were lost. I got a chest full of medals. When he was in, they only gave him one.”
About two dozen people attended the ceremony in addition to Silva’s family. While his father may have been too modest to appreciate the recognition, Silva was pleased to have the awards earned by Pvt. Frank A. Silva Jr. and share the memory with friends and family. “That was an honor to witness,” one woman said to Silva as she shook his hand on her way out of the Legion Hall.