ROY — The Purple Heart, the U.S. flag folded into a triangle, the black-and-white picture of the military man holding the mortar shell — it’s all a mystery.
“It kind of makes you curious. I’ve kind of wondered about this guy,” said Jim Thorpe.
Last year, a friend came across the case containing the flag, the picture and five military medals tucked away in a closet at his Ogden apartment. The friend didn’t know what to do with the items. But Thorpe didn’t want the case to just gather more dust, so he took it off his hands and has been searching ever since for the family of the mysterious military man, a World War II veteran, now dead, he presumes.
“This is his legacy. I can’t imagine this is not missed,” said Thorpe, a warehouse supervisor from Roy.
The man’s name is Thomas D. Walker, according to an inscription on one of the medals, but beyond the few clues offered by the medals and picture, he doesn’t know anything else. He’s done what he can, aided by daughter Britney Thorpe, and, with Memorial Day here, is redoubling his efforts.
“It does belong to his family. It needs to be with them,” Britney Thorpe said.
The folded flag is typical of what military veterans get after they die and get military funeral honors, she said. Still, Jim Thorpe knows there’s more to the story. Did Walker die doing some sort of valorous deed, hence the Purple Heart and Bronze Star? Did he live to 90 and then die?
Whatever the details, he aims to honor Walker. While he searches, the case sits on display in the living room of his Roy home.
Here are some of the details:
The man was a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific Theater, as indicated by the medals, which include Asiatic Pacific Campaign and World War II Victory medals. A U.S. Air Force website said Asiatic Pacific Campaign medals were issued to U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard personnel who served in the Pacific Theater between Dec. 7, 1941, and March 2, 1946.
The photo of Walker holding the shell and wearing a helmet makes Jim Thorpe think he served in the Navy. But a ribbon also in the case indicates he was a rifleman, so he’s not sure.
Aside from the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Asiatic Pacific Campaign and World War II Victory medals, Walker’s case includes a Good Conduct Medal. The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are wounded in action while the Bronze Star is awarded for meritorious or heroic actions.
Jim Thorpe’s father and both grandfathers served in the military and he has a deep respect for those who served. Thus, his focus on trying to find Walker’s descendants. He’s contacted veterans’ organizations for help and more, spending a lot of time on the phone, so far to no avail.
“They’ve tried helping. There’s a lot of Walkers out there,” he said, alluding to the mystery man’s last name, fairly common.
Still, he and his daughter will keep at it and, in the meantime, the case remains in Thorpe’s living room, on view to him every day. It’s become a mission, and if he finally does reach Walker family member, he said, he wants to know more of the backstory “because I’ve had it so long.”
Britney Thorpe asks anyone with clues or potential information to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.