JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — After 71 years, a Rhode Island soldier who went missing in action during the Korean War has finally returned home.
U.S. Army Lt. Anthony Mazzulla’s remains arrived on Tuesday.
It was a homecoming that was long overdue, according to his niece Lois Marandola.
“It’s very touching,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that, after this many years, a family member could come home.”
Marandola said she never knew her uncle because he was reported missing five years before she was born.
Mazzulla, described as a smart and quiet man, was highly decorated for his service, earning a Purple Heart and numerous other medals and badges.
One of four boys, he grew up in Johnston and attended La Salle Academy and Providence College before enlisting in the U.S. Army.
It was December 1950 when he was first reported missing following the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
“We had no closure,” Marandola said. “Obviously, we didn’t know where he was, and I think there was always hope in my grandmother’s heart that he would be found.”
In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to return 55 boxes of human remains to the United States.
Marandola said she saw those reports, but never thought her uncle might be among those boxes.
Then in 2019, her phone rang.
“I get a call from a woman saying she believes that the remains of my uncle had been found, and she sends me about 60 pages of paperwork and she says, ‘Let’s hope that the next call it’ll be that he has been identified, that it’s definitely him,'” Marandola recalled. “Then May of 2020, I see across my cell phone ‘Fort Knox’ and I was like ‘Oh come on, this can’t be.'”
But it was. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency confirmed that DNA analysis proved the remains were Mazzulla’s.
“I’m proud that he served his country,” Marandola said. “I know he made the ultimate sacrifice, but he is home now and [will be] put to rest where he belongs.”
Visiting hours will be held Saturday morning from 8 to 9 a.m. at Nardolillo Funeral Home in Cranston, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Rocco’s in Johnston at 10 a.m. Mazzulla will be laid to rest with military honors beside his brothers and parents at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Cranston.