Purple Heart recipient honored at national tribute
Pfc. Michael J. Mescavage, the Pennsylvania Commander, Ret., of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, of Hamburg, is among those being honored as part of a national tribute to recipients on National Purple Heart Day.
The Purple Heart is presented to those injured or killed in combat. Aug. 6 was West Point Day for the tribute.
Mescavage’s wife, Annie, accompanied him on the trip.
They checked-in at the Thayer Hotel at West Point on Aug. 5. The next day included a tour of the Chapel, The Plain and Trophy Point where a group photo was taken, a visit to the museum, lunch at Cullum Hall, a superintendent’s cruise on the Hudson River and a tour of the Army Sports Hall of Fame.
By 4:30 p.m. they were back at The Plain for a demonstration by the Black Knight jump team.
Retreat and a flag presentation were followed by entertainment from the West Point Band at the West Point Club.
On National Purple Heart Day, Aug. 7, Washington’s Headquarters near Newburgh was visited and a rally celebration at Newburgh Armory Unity Center took place.
Mescavage, a member of Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club, New Tripoli, fondly recalls his hunting dog of 23 years and target shooting.
Drafted in 1965, he was inducted at Fort Jackson, S.C., and took basic training at Fort Carson, Colo.
He served with the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, which featured patch was a large red diamond.
His mother had serious medical problems and he was frequently on emergency leave. This led to being moved when he returned to the military each time.
This prevented him from forming the close brotherly association among members that is part of the military.
“You join the Army and other military branches can come and request people for their branch,” Mescavage said.
At one point, there were two lists and he was at the bottom on one from which the people needed were chosen.
He was pleased the other list was chosen and he remained Army. The people chosen were always from the bottom of the list.
When he was deployed to Vietnam, he was the only passenger on a 707 flying out of Fort Devens, Mass.
His unit at that time was the 196th Light Infantry A Co. 2/1
He earned his Purple Heart when he was hit by shrapnel behind the knee.
Mescavage was sent to 106 General Hospital in Yokohama, Japan. He was not sure what had happened even to not being sure of the date: October or November 1966.
“We were moving out of position when an 80mm shell landed right behind me. The equipment I was wearing saved me. I went back to the unit and they asked me if I remembered the spot,” Mescavage said.
He was told the trench was where he had been hit.
A medic was on top of him and a major beside him.
He was MedEvac’d out – called a “dust off.”
Mescavage served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967.
He does not have medical problems from Agent Orange but knows many people who were, including an adopted child. The genetic damage goes on for generations.
His wife was training as a nurse. After graduation she worked in the Veterans Hospital in Coatesville.
When he came home, Mescavage went into construction work and heard that a test was being given for state police.
At that time, troopers were not allowed to be married.
“When I took the test, there were 15,000 applicants but only 200 were accepted to take the test, and of those 125 graduated,” Mescavage said. “I loved police work and the people I met. I did some undercover work in counterfeiting, worked crime scene investigations and photography.”
His son Michael, one of three children, was in the military for six years. Mescavage said Michael was with the 82nd Airborne. The Mescavages raised macaws.
The Badge of Military Merit, a way to honor special service, was designed by George Washington for military serving in the Revolutionary War.
A hand-sewn piece of purple material cut in the shape of a heart, the word Merit was in the center flanked by olive branches.
The badge was forgotten and faded into history until Gen. Charles Summerall, after World War I directed a draft bill be sent to Congress to revive the Badge of Military Merit.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur reopened work on a new design. That work was done by Elizabeth Will, an Army specialist.
The Purple Heart Medal is different from all military awards because it cannot be earned except by exceptional service or achievement by shedding his or her blood to defend freedom.