BUFFALO, N.Y. – Richard Zuehlke was unpacking a box of donated household miscellany at the Goodwill store where he works when he came across a gold-trimmed black case. Inside was a Purple Heart.
Such an honor shouldn’t be floating around, he thought. The box also had a sepia-toned portrait of Pvt. James E. Roland, whose name was on the medal.
Zuehlke’s bosses agreed the store was no place for an honor posthumously given to Roland for military merit during World War II.
After a Facebook post and some determination on the part of a Patriot Guard Rider who saw it, the medal will soon be with Roland’s family in tiny Westover, Pa., the former mining town where he’s buried.
How it wound up at a Goodwill 200 miles away, though, remains anyone’s guess.
“It seemed like it may have been mailed to somebody,” said Buffalo-area Patriot Guard coordinator Linda Hastreiter, who began looking for Roland’s relatives after learning of the Goodwill Facebook post.
“For 69 years, it’s been somewhere,” she said.
She began searching immediately. Nearly a month later, she tracked down Mary Roland Struble, a distant cousin and Westover’s mayor.
Hastreiter and other members of the military advocacy group will receive the medal from Goodwill in Buffalo on Tuesday. Riders on motorcycles will escort it from DuBois, Pa., to the cemetery on Saturday and present it to Struble at Roland’s gravesite.
“This is just totally amazing. It makes me very proud,” Struble said.