Forgotten Military Medals Finally Returning Home


The Huffington Post shares a story of a Rita Dudczak in Lackawanna, New York.

On December 16th, the county officials returned military medals to Ms. Dudczak which belonged to her father, Vincent Mikolajczyk.

Mikolajczyk joined the military when he was 18. He spent the majority of WWII in the Pacific theater. Rita kept all these memories and tokens of her father for decades. She still carries a memento that her father carried with him during the war. It was his brother’s obituary–he was killed while fighting.

In 1983, Vincent was 66 years old when he passed away. Today, his service and sacrifice is now being honored. Rita was given the Purple Heart for the injury he sustained while in Panama–a bullet to the hand–along with a Bronze star and six other service medals.

“We have some of the most important medals that anyone serving our country can receive,” said Mark Poloncarz, the County Executive.

The medals as to be the center of a mystery.

“We found a set of medals that were left with county government that were in a box abandoned in an office that truthfully had not been used for some time.and these were very important medals that we thought needed to be returned to the family,” said Poloncarz.

Fran McLaughlan and the Erie County Veterans Service Agency took it upon themselves to figure our the mystery behind the medals.

“Thank goodness for the internet.” said McLaughlin who searched the web for Vincent’s name, finally locating a death record, and ultimately his daughter, Rita in Lackawanna. “She’s a wonderful lady and obviously comes from good stock, has a great father and it is my pleasure and honor that we got it to her.”

Rita is thankful that her father is finally receiving recognition for his service in the military. She is also grateful that she now has 8 more mementos of her father.  “I wish that he could have been alive to see these medals for the sacrifices that he did.”


Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE