Purple Heart being reunited with soldier’s family in Myrtle Beach

Another family’s hearts will have some closure this weekend with the return of a longtime lost medal.

Horace Roscoe Gore – an Army sergeant from Myrtle Beach who was killed in action in Vietnam on May 18, 1967, at age 19 – will be remembered in a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Hall of Heroes, in the Sands Ocean Dunes Resort, 201 75th. Ave. N., Myrtle Beach, at Ocean Boulevard.

Four family members and a high school friend, all from the Carolinas, will receive Gore’s Purple Heart medal, which was awarded posthumously for his ultimate sacrifice in combat.

This ceremony will happen one month to the day that descendants of Odell Holden received the Purple Heart he earned as an Army technical sergeant from Myrtle Beach. He was killed in action Aug. 28, 1944, at age 23, in France during World War II. Similar to Holden’s medal, found by Shane Gray in a home remodeling project in Conway, Kris Fulwood of Little River had come across Gore’s medal while working on a construction job.

Rich Roszelle of Bluffton, the S.C. adjutant for Military Order of the Purple Heart organization, said Fulwood was installing floors and tiles two years ago when the medal turned up, but he “got nowhere” in his efforts to connect with military officials to help in its return. Then, catching news last month about the presentation made in Holden’s honor, Fulwood contacted Purple Hearts Reunited’s Zachariah Fike, a captain in the Army National Guard in Vermont whose research resulted in finding Gore’s kin, as he did for Holden’s relatives.

Fike, speaking Sunday afternoon by phone from home in Georgia, Vt., said public turnout was terrific for Holden’s medal presentation, also at the Hall of Heroes, and he took part in two other medal returns last month across the Palmetto State.

“I think South Carolina has been my best experience,” Fike said of the memories made in these family reunions of sorts, and that they generate other inquiries to Purple Hearts Reunited. “There’s a lot of South Carolina connections.”

Fike said with leads also referred by Military Order of the Purple Heart chapters nationwide, he might spend “hours, days, months and even a year” to reach family members of a recipient.

“Sometimes, people think there’s a magic database,” Fike said, noting the lack of government recordkeeping of Purple Hearts awarded. He said in tracking down kin, he files a request with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

“The first thing we need to do is see the medal,” said Fike, who said Purple Hearts have not changed in appearance through more than two centuries, but that he notices finite differences in their materials, indicating their era, such as World War II or the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Also, the records center might have more than one person with the same name who served in the military simultaneously, Fike said, so he employs extra resources in a search and “some detective work, following my heart, and having that feeling that this has to be it.”

Once the veteran is identified, Fike said, research deepens to cover the person’s “entire life” from parents down the siblings “and trying to find someone who’s alive.”

‘Motivating’ pastime

Fike, a 16-year veteran and a married father with an infant child, said he spends about “three hours a night” in these quests, in a passionate pastime.

“It’s motivating,” he said, eager to spread awareness of their selfless valor. “These guys are heroes. We cannot do enough for them.”

In a short biography, Fike said Gore, born July 9, 1947, joined the Army in 1966 as an infantry mortarman. He was assigned to 4th Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. While Gore was on a combat patrol in Pleiku Province, South Vietnam, his unit was ambushed, and Gore gave his life trying to save the men around him. That act triggered his Bronze Star with “Valor” Device and the Purple Heart, and he also received a National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Campaign Star, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Combat Infantry Badge.

Fike said Gore’s sisters Sophia Pearson and Carrie Davis, niece Lashawn Ruffin and nephew Wesley O’Brian Davis will attend Saturday for the Purple Heart presentation, along with David Wilson, a high school friend and fellow serviceman who last spoke to Gore as he waited on a bus on his way to Vietnam.

Plans also are underway to give a $1,000 scholarship to Wesley Davis, whom Roszelle said is pursuing a doctorate.

An Army veteran who attained the rank of sergeant, Roszelle said data show that Gore deployed Sept. 15, 1966, and that “it was amazing” that Gore achieved sergeant’s rank in so short a time.

“In today’s military, you do not make rank like that” so quickly, Roszelle said.

From each medal return ceremony, which Fike said costs about $1,200 to coordinate with framing and medal preservation and other elements, solely funded through donations – but always for free for each family honored – people bring home some history.

“People will know who Horace Roscoe Gore is; people will know his story,” Fike said, ready to return to Myrtle Beach and meet up again with members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart S.C. Chapter 354 and with Fulwood.

One other touching part of this medal finding and safekeeping that Fike raised is what “a decent young guy” Fulwood struck him as, a married, between-jobs father of twin boys, who uses a bicycle for transportation.

“He wanted no reward,” Fike said, of first hearing from Fulwood by phone about the medal, praising his humble nature because he was “just doing the right thing.”