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Long overdue medals for an Oklahoma soldier

The mailbox is often a source of surprises, but few are bigger than the one that showed up in a Tahlequah mailbox earlier this week.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells went to Tahlequah and shows us the package that honors a soldier and his family from six decade ago.

Gus Hawzipta is an artist in Tahlequah, the News on 6 visited with him on Wednesday because of a big envelope on the kitchen table. He thought it might contain books he'd ordered. “I said that's not big enough. I looked and it said US Army Resources Command."

What it contained was awards and decorations honoring his older brother Mathew's military service, in World War II, more than 60 years ago. Among them a bronze star and three purple hearts. "He was wounded the first time in March of 1943, then the day after Christmas of 1944 and then in April of 1945." He died of those wounds in April of 1945, about a month short of the war's end. His body was shipped home and he was buried in the Anadarko cemetery. And that was that until the Army contacted the family when the mail arrived this week.

It ties up a lot of loose ends about Mathew Hawzipta's service, and his sacrifice. "It kind of fits in the missing pieces and stuff like that." Gus didn't know his older brother well, Mathew left home when Gus was young. Mathew worked for the US government and then joined the Army. Having these awards gives Gus a connection perhaps he never had. "Traditionally I'm gonna have an honor dance for him." It's a Kiowa tradition to honor men in the family who have died a fitting close to a story that took more than 60 years to find its ending.

Gus had hoped to locate a picture of his brother, but he was unable to find one. The Honor Dance he's planning will be held later this fall.
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