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104 years after his death, Bloomer soldier honored with Purple Heart

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BLOOMER — On Saturday, a group of veterans, politicians, locals and descendants of Martin A. Treptow gathered at the American Legion in Bloomer to honor a serviceman who never made it home from World War I.

During the ceremony, attendees gave the pledge of allegiance, listened to the story of Treptow, and saw the man honored with a 21-gun salute and the taps bugle call.

The gathering was a long time coming. Treptow’s family has spent the last three years trying to secure their great-uncle a Purple Heart for his sacrifice.

The problem was that Treptow had no direct descendants. His great-nephews and great-nieces took up the charge to try and get Treptow the Purple Heart, but the fact that they weren’t his children or grandchildren proved to be a roadblock.

In a chance meeting between Treptow’s great-nephew who bears the same name — Martin Treptow — and State Rep. Jesse James, R-Altoona, the younger Treptow told James he’d been trying to get his relative the Purple Heart.

Together, they made it happen.

“This is the coolest thing that I’ve been able to do as a legislator,” James said. “They asked for help. That’s what we did.”

James said that he and his staff worked diligently to make sure the Purple Heart was awarded, and they were able to get it in just over a month.

“We helped with documentation and the application process,” he said.

James said this is meaningful for him as a veteran and a politician.

“We have to honor our veterans. When they give their life for what we have as American citizens,” James said. “To recognize someone 104 years later — you just can’t beat that.”

Twenty-four-year-old Treptow died in France on July 28, 1918.

At the time he was killed he was carrying a message between units. Upon recovering his body, friends and fellow servicemen found a journal on his person which held various writings and thoughts.

One note in his journal stood out and has stood the test of time. Known as Pvt. Treptow’s Pledge, the message reads:

“I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully, and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”

Those words have been shared from the Senate building to former President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration speech in 1981. They were also used as a motivational quote during World War II.

Treptow was honored about a century ago in his hometown of Bloomer when locals bestowed his name upon the newly minted American Legion Post: the Martin A. Treptow American Legion Post No. 295.

Treptow’s body is buried in Bloomer but his legacy continues. His family has been reunited due to the work they’ve endured to garner Treptow a Purple Heart.

For 72-year-old Martin Treptow and other living descendants, the award does more than honor their great-uncle for his patriotic duty and sacrifice. The process of securing the Purple Heart and the award ceremony in Bloomer brought family members together who’d been long since removed.

“There’s only six of us grand-nephews and nieces left,” Treptow said. “This kind of gives us closure.”

Treptow said reconnecting with family has been a blessing.

“We have cousins in Boston and Texas. We have cousins we didn’t even know about before this,” he said.

A year from now the Treptow’s and extended family will come together in Bloomer for a huge family reunion.

“It will be a lot of excitement for this little town — Bloomer — and we can’t wait to get everyone together,” he said.

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