Purple Heart restored to World War II veteran's family

Julia LeDoux
August 26, 2019 - 1:31 pm
Gary Krowlikowski

Photo courtesy of Mitch Wakeland

Walter Krolikowski received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a number of campaign ribbons as a result of his service during World War II.

For years, those honors were hidden away in a box, until they were reunited with Krolikowski’s family Saturday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Krowlikowski medals
Photos courtesy of Mitch Wakeland

About a decade ago, Mitch Wakeland discovered the tributes among his late father-in-law’s possessions. Wakeland immediately knew that he had to get the medals either back to Krolikowski or a member of his family, but life simply got in the way -- until a few weeks ago.

That’s when Wakeland found Connecting Vets on Facebook and reached out for help in finding Krolikowski or his family.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Wakeland, who is himself a Navy veteran.

We turned to Purple Hearts Reunited for help. Using ancestry databases, the non-profit discovered that one of Krolikowski’s nephews, Gary, actually lives about five miles from Wakeland. It also turns out that one of Wakeland’s father-in-law’s sisters, Anita, was married to Krolikowski.

Walter and Anita Krowlikowski
Photo courtesy of Mitch Wakeland

Wakeland and Gary Krolikowski swapped stories about their military service for more than two hours. Gary Krolikowski told Wakeland about being spat upon and called names when he returned home following his service in Vietnam.

“It was very moving for me,” Wakeland said. “One cannot really understand what our veterans past and present have or are going through.”

Gary Krolikowski expressed his gratitude about having his uncle’s medals returned to the family but lamented the fact that he really didn’t know his uncle well. Gary Krolikowski was just a young boy when Walter Krolikowski died in 1963.

Walter Krolikowski’s medals will be displayed next to the Purple Heart and other medals Gary Krolikowski earned for his service.

To date, Purple Hearts Reunited has returned over 600 medals to family members of the recipients.

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Long lost Purple Heart medals reunited with families of WWI veterans

Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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