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NEWS | May 29, 2024

Connecticut World War I Soldier Awarded Purple Heart

By Timothy Koster, Connecticut National Guard Public Affairs Office

GUILFORD, Conn. – A Connecticut National Guard Soldier assigned to Company M, 102nd Infantry Regiment, received the Purple Heart May 24, more than 100 years after he died during World War I.

U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Maynard of Torrington was killed in action on the last day of the war while serving in France. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal presented the Purple Heart to Rick Maynard, Paul’s grandnephew, during a ceremony at the Guilford town green.

Several current members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, one of the oldest active units in the U.S. military, also attended. The regiment’s heritage dates back to the colonial militia.

Maynard said the ceremony brought his family closure. Their journey to learn more about his great-uncle’s life and military service began in 2010 when they discovered a package of letters he’d sent home from the war while cleaning their father’s basement.

“I opened it up and saw about three dozen letters written from Paul to my grandfather from the battlefields of France,” Maynard said. “I started reading these letters and said, ‘Oh my goodness! This is amazing!’”

Since their discovery, Sgt. Maynard’s family has worked with historians to piece together his story. And, with the help of Christine Pittsley, the special projects curator at the Connecticut State Library, they pinpointed the exact coordinates of where he died on the battlefield.

“I think Paul was very proud to wear the American uniform and even prouder to serve his country,” said Lisa Ann Maynard in a 2015 documentary about Sgt. Maynard presented by the American Battle Monuments Commission. “Everybody put a lot on the line, and I’m really hoping that Paul will be the catalyst for people to say, ‘Let’s look more into our history in this.’”

During the ceremony, Maynard talked about how his great-uncle was a patriot and one of the first people in his hometown to enlist to serve in the war. He described him as selfless, always sending home his military pay to help his family with their bills. He shared excerpts from the letters, including one from his last letter, dated Nov. 4, 1918, to his brother, just one week before a German artillery strike killed him.

“Well, Glen, I thought a good many times I never would be able to write home again. We have had a hard time on this front and we’ll be glad when it’s over with. Write often and don’t forget your old chum.”

Maynard shared this excerpt because he felt the final line encapsulated the true meaning of Memorial Day, which Americans were preparing to celebrate a few days later. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that the Purple Heart represents that you spilled blood for the United States, and you were willing to give your life for it,” said John Alberghini, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient, in an interview with WTNH.

The 102nd Infantry Regiment was the first American unit to see heavy combat in World War I during the battle of Seichprey. They also participated in the battles of Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne and the Battle of Verdun. Maynard and Company M fought in some of the war’s most intense battles, such as the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Saint-Mihiel Campaign and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

He was killed on the last day of the war as he worked to pull his men back from the front line. He is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Plot D Row 24, Grave 26.

He was 21 years old.

 

 

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