Virginia community returns military uniform to family of decorated World Wars veteran – NBC4 Washington
Many have spent time during the pandemic cleaning their homes, sorting through memorabilia and long-forgotten boxes.
But a rediscovered item – the uniform of a highly decorated veteran – leads a Virginia woman to enlist a community of strangers to solve a decades-old mystery.
The military uniform was first found in 1986, in a house on Green Street in Alexandria, Virginia, owned by Ann Cameron Siegal’s mother.
When her mother died, Siegal started cleaning out the attic. What she found will ultimately change a family and unite the community.
“We went there,” recalls Siegal. “This uniform was hanging on a hook. It wasn’t in a trunk, it wasn’t in a box. It was just hanging in the attic.
The mysterious uniform would sit in storage for another few decades – until the pandemic hit.
“COVID shut everything down and like everyone else, we started walking around the house and saying, ‘Let’s just clean things up.'”
And here it is again: the uniform of the US Army, adorned with numerous insignia and decorations. Siegal knew the uniform hadn’t belonged to his mother.
“He was a highly decorated officer,” she said. “I wanted to know who my mother bought the house from.”
But she hit a roadblock.
“Everything was closed. We couldn’t go back to land records, online didn’t go that far back, so I went to Nextdoor.com.
Hundreds of comments, all unknown, poured in. The community of Alexandria wanted to help.
Then just the right person saw the message – military historian Patrick Jennings.
“I thought I could help,” Jennings said. “It was a fantastic mystery.”
The decades-long riddle would be solved within 24 hours.
“We all put the pieces together, combining the real estate records and the military records and – and he posted, “I FOUND IT!” Siegal recalled.
“You could almost feel the hugs and the high-fives,” she said.
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The uniform belonged to Colonel Royal Gervais, who served in the First and Second World Wars.
“In the army, in the army history program, we like to say that every soldier has a story and we are lucky that Colonel Gervais actually left us a CV of sorts, without a name on it. , in his uniform,” Jennings said.
Colonel Gervais’ grandson, David, remembers the man in uniform.
“He was a good man. He really was,” David Gervais said. “For the time, all those years in the military, through two wars, he was a good guy.”
Today, the uniform is back with the Gervais family, who intend to pass it on from generation to generation.
“Because it’s all part of our history,” said David Gervais.
Colonel Royal Gervais now rests on a sloping hill, surrounded by giant trees at Arlington National Cemetery.
Each soldier has a story, and this one succeeded in federating a community.
Siegal sums up what this means to her in one word: connections.
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“Connections both between generations. Bonds in history and bonds in a community when everyone is forced to be distant,” she said.
“I want people to see that you can come together, you can work together and find solutions,” Jennings said.
As for what Colonel Gervais would think, his grandson said, “Oh, I think he would be surprised.