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A Buffalo-born soldier killed in Korea finally gets his Purple Heart and more

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Sixty-seven years after his death, a Buffalo native has received a half-dozen medals - including the Purple Heart - for his service in the Korean War.

Private First Class Richard Harla was serving with the 187th Infantry Division, a parachute unit sent to Inchon Landing in 1951. He was killed in combat, one of 442 members of the 187th killed in action, and one of more than 50,000 Americans and allies killed, injured, captured or missing during the war.

A Purple Heart medal was previously forwarded to his family but as it was explained at Tuesday's ceremony, the medal presented to Harla's sister, Christine Kasprzyk, was damaged. On this occasion, Congressman Brian Higgins presented a new Purple Heart medal.

"Families who lose their sons and daughters, sisters and brothers paid an immeasurable price," he said. "We hope there is a level of peace in knowing his life, lost much too soon, his legacy to this country lives on and is eternal."

The Purple Heart was one of six decorations owed to Harla and presented. Representatives of the United States Army delivered the remaining honors: the United Nations Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Good Conduct Medal.

"I was thrilled, and that's when I started crying," Kasprzyk said. "I never realized he got all those. I was concerned about the Purple Heart but I didn't realize that all the other medals came too, which I feel very honored about."

Kasprzyk works at the Cheektowaga Senior Center, where the ceremony took place, and thanked guests including residents there to support her as well as representatives of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Harla is buried in St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga. 

The Purple Heart was first established by General George Washington in 1782 as the Badge of Military Merit and has since been awarded to soldiers who have died or been injured while in combat. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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