Purple Heart recipient receives long overdue memorial

“We’re here to do something that should have been done 68 years ago,” said pastor Daniel Griffin as the service began that was part of the Veterans Day celebration at Harmony Baptist Church in Elgin.

In May 1945, a mother in Elgin received a telegram from the War Department informing her that one of her sons, P.F.C. Melvin L. Kelly, had been killed in the war and buried at sea. With no body, there was no memorial service to help the family find closure.

Kelly served in the Marine Corps in World War II. After being wounded when a plane crashed into his foxhole in Okinawa, Kelly was awarded the Purple Heart. Just a few days later, while on a hospital ship, Kelly died from his injuries and was buried at sea.

The recent memorial service has been a long time in the making. A plaque was placed in memory of Melvin L. Kelly beside his brothers (who also served in the military) and parents in the church cemetery. Church representatives thanked U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and his office for helping to file the papers and getting the process back on track.

Kelly now has a marker among his family members. “I feel good that enough people cared about it to do all this,” said Blondell Christensen, Kelly’s sister.