Lewiston, ME — Today in her Lewiston Constituent Service Center, U.S. Senator Susan Collins presented the Purple Heart to the children of Private Arthur Labbay, a World War I veteran who was severely wounded while fighting in France. The ceremony was also attended by Major General Douglas A. Farnham, the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard, and Colonel Andrew “Andy” Gibson, Maine Army National Guard Chaplain and Director of Deployment Cycle Support.
“I am very honored to join the family and friends as we pay tribute to Arthur Labbay’s exemplary service to our nation. The Purple Heart Medal is a powerful symbol of Mr. Labbay’s courage, sacrifice, and his devotion to duty,” said Senator Collins. “I have often been called upon to work on getting long overdue medals for our service members but it has never been for a WWI service member, and that makes this incredibly special.”
Private Labbay was assigned to Company H, 3rd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment and was sent to France. On July 18, 1918, he was shot in the right arm and the throat while courageously loading machine guns during combat. He was hospitalized in France from July to December of 1918 before he was shipped home. Later on, he was a patient for many years at Togus VA Medical Center until he passed in 1980. He is buried at Saint Peters Cemetery in Lewiston.
Private Labbay’s daughter, Pauline Labbay Blais of Greene, reached out to Senator Collins’ office on July 18, 2019—exactly 101 years after her father was wounded in battle—to inquire whether her late father was eligible for the Purple Heart. Senator Collins contacted the Department of Defense on Ms. Blais’ behalf and forwarded a packet of information regarding Private Labbay’s service. The Army determined that Private Labbay had earned this medal for his actions on July 18, 1918. Senator Collins presented the award to Pauline and her sister Charlotte Landry of Bowdoin.
The meaning of the Purple Heart Medal carries the sentiments of troops going back to the 1700s. The Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart’s origin and inspiration, was established by George Washington in 1782, and was the first award that could be earned by anyone who was enlisted.