By Sonja Reis
A World War II-era Purple Heart military decoration reunited with the family of McKees Rocks resident and amateur boxer Nicholas P. Wargo has again changed hands.
This time the extended Wargo family gathered in McKees Rocks for a reunion and to transfer ownership of the medallion to retired Air Force Lt. Col. George Wargo, who piloted F-15 fighters much of his career. He currently lives in Seaford, Virginia and was in Italy at the time of the May 27 rededication.
That pre-Memorial Day event in Lisbon, Ohio was planned by retired Army Sgt. Nate Railing, who had discovered the Purple Heart at an Ohio flea market. He purchased the item for $10 with plans to find the Wargo family and return it to its rightful owners.
Four of Wargo’s nieces and nephews made the trek to Lisbon in order to be reunited with “Uncle Nick’s” missing military award. More than 40 relatives traveled from as far as Kentucky to McKees Rocks for the Aug. 6 reunion at the VFW Vesle Post 418.
During his address to the family George Wargo, the retired pilot known as “Wild Man,” joked with the family about not having seen some of those gathered in 60 years though he is “only 25.”
Before joining the Air Force, George Wargo lived in Chartiers City and attended Langley High School from 1961 to 1965. Much of his childhood was spent moving around as a military brat.
George Wargo’s great-nephew is Chuck Bucek of Stowe Township. The fourth-generation resident of the Stowe and Rocks communities was pleased with the family turnout for the transfer ceremony led by members of the VFW and its Commander Ed Carter, a Gulf War veteran.
“I’m proud to see everyone here coming together, especially the military sides of the family,” said Bucek, indicating great pride in the family. “The Bucek and Wargo families have a rich military history.”
George Wargo’s great-niece Julie O’Mara of Kennedy also attended.
She began work on the family tree in the summer of 2022 and said the event was a nice way to be able to put faces with names.
“I want to be able to tie all the pieces together,” she said.
Looking at the photo display of Nicholas Wargo frozen in time, she said she realized just how much her brother Kevin looks like him.
Private First Class Nicholas P. Wargo died Nov. 10, 1944 while serving in France. A Western Union telegram sent Dec. 1, 1944 alerted the family of the loss. A letter from the military and the Purple Heart arrived later and much later was lost during the handling of a sister’s estate.
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed as the result of enemy action.
According to the National Purple Heart Honor Mission group, “Purple Heart Day is celebrated each Aug. 7.
“National Purple Heart Day offers Americans a special opportunity to say ‘Thank You’ to the nearly two million brave men and women who fought for our nation’s freedom, and bear the physical scars of war."