Coast Guard Quartermaster John Healy on Sunday received one of the military’s highest honors — more than 100 years after he died fighting in World War I.
Healy was one of 130 people, including 111 members of the Coast Guard, who died aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tampa when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat on Sept. 26, 1918 in the Atlantic Ocean off the British coast.
The ship went down in three minutes. Healy was 23 when he died.
This weekend the mariner became the 38th member of the Coast Guard to be posthumously awarded a Purple Heart for his service.
The honor was presented to Healy’s niece Jean Hall, 95, during a ceremony at the Coast Guard’s base on Staten Island.
“I never knew him, I never met him,” said Hall. “My mom delayed her wedding because of her brother’s death. We never talked about him. My mother was so depressed about the incident. They didn’t want to talk about him.”
Born in Pennsylvania, Healy enlisted in the Coast Guard out of Brooklyn shortly after the war began.
Until 1999, members of the Coast Guard aboard the USCGC Tampa were not authorized to receive Purple Hearts. Since then, the military has worked to locate the next of kin of those who were killed aboard the ship.
“It reminds us we serve today on the shoulders of those who served before us,” said Coast Guard Captain Jason Tama, who presented Healy’s Purple Heart. “Quartermaster Healy made a great sacrifice for our country. We remember those sacrifices in the line of duty.”
Healy’s great niece Barbara Klimaszew said her family plans felt honored by the military ceremony.
“The Purple Heart is something to look up to to honor a member of our family,” she said. “He was dedicated. He was a first generation Irish immigrant. He fought for his new country and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
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