The McKay Brothers
LTC Wilbur 'Mac' and 1LT Richard McKay, together again
This return of one Purple Heart tells the very special story of two brothers: 1LT Richard Kenneth McKay and LT COL Wilbur Stewart McKay.
While serving in the 88th Division, Richard was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent seven long months in Stalag VII-A until the end of the war. He would then go on to serve in the 2nd Division in the Korean War. This is his photo below.
His brother Wilbur, who was known as Mac, served in the U. S. Army Air Corps.
Described by his daughter as proud, fastidious, and a true American, Mac would spend the rest of his days engineering bridges around Ohio. In his spare time, he gave himself to woodworking.
It was during those quiet moments in his garage that Mac made a wooden display case for his medals … and a smaller one with miniature medals for his brother Richard. These are his original polaroids taken after their completion.
Many years later, Mac had dementia and lived with his daughter Beth. He would get dressed in his full uniform - which still fit - and sit on the porch in the moonlight, waiting for his General to pick him up. Beth said she dug a lot of gardens through those nights, so that her father wasn’t outside alone.
Other nights, he would sit alone in his bedroom and she would hear his voice booming through a dark house, talking to an imaginary radio. ‘This is WSM checking in, anyone manning the station?‘
Through tears, Beth recalled one afternoon in a parking lot when a Vietnam Veteran walked up, stood in front of Mac, and saluted the 91 year old LT COL still wearing his WW2 uniform.
When we called Beth to tell her we wished to return her Uncle Richard’s medals to the family, one of the first questions she asked was: ‘Are the medals in a wooden frame?’
Believe it or not, Beth knew about the frame because she still has the Polaroids that Mac took of them after their creation. And of course, she still has her father’s frame - it hangs in her home with his burial flag.
After Richard passed, the frame his brother made for him made its way home along with other medals including his Purple Heart.
Mac and Richard, who so proudly served our country, will hang side by side in Beth’s home.
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Besides our own, Richard’s medals passed through at least two pair of hands to get home - our thanks to James McCormick of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Cherie Speelmans for sending them our way. We are also grateful to American Airlines for helping us bring them home.