MAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Officials are looking for family members of a World War II veteran who died in 1945.
A Purple Heart belonging to a Navy seaman was discovered a few weeks ago in a storage unit near Elysburg.
Dale Breech took us to the storage unit where he made an unbelievable discovery.
“It was down here towards the end. I think it was 64,” said Breech.
Breech is hired occasionally by the facility’s owner to clean out units that are no longer being rented. A few weeks ago, he stumbled upon a military medal in unit 64.
“My dad was in the service, too, and I was in the service and I recognized it right away,” said Breech.
It was not just any medal; It was a Purple Heart with the name of Seaman First Class Albert Helt with the U.S. Naval Reserves.
“This thing just laid on the floor there and there was dirt and garbage all over the place,” said Breech.
Breech brought the Purple Heart to the Montour County Veterans Affairs office in the hopes of getting it back to Helt’s relatives.
Since receiving the medal, John Novak and Douglas Resseguie with Veterans Affairs have been learning all they can about Seaman First Class Albert Helt.
They say Helt was killed while battling a kamikaze pilot from the deck of a U.S. destroyer off the coast of Japan on April 17, 1945.
“It was shot down about 50 feet off the edge of the ship but the shrapnel from the explosion struck and killed him,” said Novak.
The Purple Heart was sent to his wife after his death, with her name and address in Northumberland still listed on the box.
The office believes the wife has passed away and now wants to return it to the family.
“This veteran sacrificed his life,” said Resseguie. “He gave his life and it’s important that we give this medal back to the family so that not only can we honor him but that he can be remembered.”
If you have any information on Albert Helt’s family, please contact the Montour County Veterans Affairs Office at 570-271-3061.