SANFORD – Sherry Thomas started researching information about her biological father when she was 30, typing his name into a search engine about the Vietnam Wall.

Now, two decades later – after much research and some serendipity, Thomas on Wednesday was presented with her father’s medals by Purple Hearts Reunited, a Vermont-based nonprofit foundation that works to return lost, stolen or misplaced medals of valor to veterans or their families.

“He was a hero,” an emotional Thomas said of her father during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at Southern Maine Health Care in Sanford, where she works as a medical assistant. “It is an honor to have a part of him.”

Family members including her husband, Robert Thomas; her son Brandon Libby, who served in the military in Afghanistan; daughter Kelsie Libby; and other relatives, close friends and co-workers were on hand to share the most special of moments.

Her uncle Herman Abbott read Fitch’s biography.

Originally of Brunswick, Fitch was a foster child, raised by the Wallace family in Bowdoinham. Born in 1945, he served with D Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division in the Army, He served in Vietnam from March 1968 to Nov. 20, 1968, when he was killed in action. He was 23 years old.

Fitch was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Brunswick, and is listed on the Vietnam Wall, Panel W38, Line 17.

The medals and citations were presented in a large frame. But Thomas was able to touch the medals and read the engraving on the Purple Heart because of how the back of the frame is constructed.

Thomas said when she found her father’s name on the Vietnam Wall website, she noticed a friend of his had typed a comment, and so she sent an email. She got a reply, and information started to emerge. Time passed. Thomas found her father’s half brother and his biological sister has been in touch, she said. There are now photographs – a high school graduation picture, a school photo of a beaming boy, and more.

When Ronald Fitch died, his medals went to his foster mother. When she died, they went to her daughter, Roberta Lamoreau, who was raised with Fitch and remembers him well.

“He was the most handsome thing,” she said following the ceremony. “And he was such a sweet guy.”

Her husband, Donald Lamoreau, remembers him too, though Fitch was a little older.

“I remember him in school,” said Lamoreau. “I was good friends with his best friend.”

Roberta Lamoreau tried to find his family members but couldn’t, and so turned the medals over to Purple Hearts Reunited in 2015.

A few years later, a connection was made.

“My father died a hero and it feels odd to receive these medals on 9/11,” Thomas  said. “I have always felt that the firefighters and first responders of 9/11 and their families are true heroes. Our military people who have served and continue to serve overseas and domestically are all heroes.”

She said she is overwhelmed by what has taken place.

“I would like to say that there is hope in this world, and to not give up,” said Thomas.“Good things do happen sometimes – it  just takes time.”

Since its inception in 2012, Purple Hearts Reunited has returned 650 medals, said Capt. Jessica Jaggers, who made the presentation.

“They are wonderful people,” said Thomas. “To bring someone’s dreams come true.”

 

 

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