Searching for answers in Purple Heart mystery

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – August 7 is National Purple Heart Day, a time to honor the men and women who have been wounded or killed while serving our nation.

This Purple Heart Day, Congressman Brian Higgins’ office is hoping you can help get some Purple Heart materials back to the family where they belong.

A postal worker recently turned over a package containing a Purple Heart certificate and a letter of recognition from President Franklin Roosevelt.

Congressman Higgins’ staff is trying to track down the family of the man who earned it during World War II.

Corporal Henry Mazurkiewicz enlisted in the US Army in Buffalo in 1940 when he was 23 years old. He died May 18, 1942, according to the date on a grave found by Higgins’ staff.

Records show he was serving with the 31st Infantry Regiment in the Philippines, when about 1,600 men surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.

Subsequently, he became one of more than 60,000 prisoners of war on what became known as the Bataan Death March.

The POWs were forced to march nearly 70 miles over six days in cruel conditions, denied food and water and subjected to physical violence, torture, and even roadside executions.

Many of those who survived the march died due to the conditions in the prison camp that was their final destination.

The Bataan Death March was ultimately declared a Japanese war crime.

Mazurkiewicz was officially presumed dead in May, 1944, and the U.S. Department of War, today known as the Department of Defense, awarded him the Purple Heart.

A package containing the Purple Heart certificate was mailed to a woman named Jennie Schultz, who was living in Buffalo.

It’s not clear how the package ended up with the postal worker who got it to Brian Higgins’ office.

Higgins’ staff has been working to return the family keepsakes to Mazurkiewicz’s family, but the trail has gone cold.

Congressman Higgins is asking community members with information about Corporal Mazurkiewicz to contact his Buffalo office at 716-852-3501.

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