DAYTON, Nev. (KRNV & Mynews4.com) -- It's a story that spans several days and thousands of miles. Seven decades after a World War II veteran died, the daughter he never met is receiving his Purple Heart.
"I had finally found her," Donna Gregory said to a crowd at Dayton Intermediate School. "I was overjoyed."
Years ago Gregory took up a mission that would change not only her life, but also Peggy Eddington-Smith's.
After more than a decade of searching, the crowd was watching as Gregory gave Eddington-Smith pieces of her father's past.
"For some stranger to do that, and from my hometown, I don't know the words for her," Eddington-Smith said.
Her father Private First Class John Eddington died while serving his country when Peggy was just four months old. She said she knew nothing about him because her mother was too heartbroken to share his story.
"69 years of nothing and then all of the sudden [Gregory] is calling and this has all popped up, it was just kind of overwhelming," Eddington-Smith said.
The event featured all the pomp and circumstance such an emotional day warrants, including a Patriot Guard escort that crossed thousands of miles.
"They don't know me, but it's for that veteran and it was awesome," Eddington-Smith said. "I cried all the way from Carson [City] here."
Eddington-Smith's father is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. When Gregory finally found his daughter, she paid him a visit.
"I laid that Purple Heart on his grave, and I told him that he could finally rest in peace because, just as soon as I could get to her, his daughter would finally have his letter and she would finally know how he felt about her," Gregory said.
Nearly three months later Gregory passed on a father's words to his daughter, in a letter she's been waiting to deliver all these years.
Eddington-Smith recieved several of her father's military honors, including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal, but her favorite memento from the day is something more personal.
"The Purple Heart is overwhelming, but I think the scrapbook because it's more about him," Eddington-Smith said.
By the end of this decade-long mission, both Eddington-Smith's arms and heart are full.
"From my heart, thank you for bringing this home," Eddington-Smith said.
Eddington-Smith said her father's scrapbook - which features letters, photos and newspaper clippings - and his military awards, will be passed down through her family from now on, so no one else will have to wonder about who he was.