POSTED: 10:54 a.m. HST, May 25, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 10:54 a.m. HST, May 25, 2013
CHESTERFIELD, Mo. » The daughter of a World War II hero has stepped forward to claim his medals after news accounts about how they mysteriously turned up in a Goodwill store.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in Friday's edition that medals belonging to Marine Sgt. James Joseph McKenzie were found in a box at a Goodwill store in Chesterfield. The medals included a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, the military's third-highest honor.
On Friday morning, McKenzie's daughter, Mimi Michelle McKenzie, now of California, contacted Goodwill after seeing the news account.
Goodwill President and CEO Lewis Chartock said that as soon as McKenzie sends him notarized proof that she is James Joseph mcKenzie's daughter, he will send her the medals.
It isn't clear how the box of medals ended up at Goodwill. Chartock, a Vietnam veteran and military aficionado, recognized the value of the medals and began searching for relatives, believing the donation was a mistake.
Documents from the display indicate that McKenzie was born in St. Louis in 1918 and joined the Marines in October 1940.
On April 13, 1942, his platoon came under heavy Japanese fire on Corregidor Island in the Philippines. The Silver Star citation says his fellow troops sought shelter in tunnels and became trapped.
"Disregarding the imminent danger of collapsing walls and roofs, Sgt. McKenzie heroically entered the tunnels, assisted in extricating trapped soldiers, and gave first aid to the wounded," the citation read.
The island fell to the Japanese a month later, and McKenzie was taken captive, according to a 1947 article in the Post-Dispatch. He spent more than three years imprisoned in Osaka, Japan. He was released in September 1945, just as Japan surrendered.
McKenzie moved back to St. Louis and worked as a salesman. He married in 1947. He died in 1979 at age 60.
"I think it's amazing this thing turned up right before Memorial Day," Chartock said.