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Years later, Mario learned soldier's identity

Published May 29. 2010 09:00AM

His decorated career having ended with the rank of sergeant major, Mario Iezzoni retired from the military in 1974.

But through decades, the Summit Hill resident always felt like he needed answers as to what happened to him in combat at the age of 18 in Korea.

"I always thought I should go see his family," said Mario of the soldier he carried from the front line assault in Pusan.

He believed the soldier to be John Kelly, one of three others with whom he was sent to Korea. The others were John J. Earley and Valletta.

Through the use of the Internet and searching Korean War records, Mario eventually learned the man he carried on his back was actually Earley, a 25-year-old from Waterbury, Conn.

"I wrote to everyone named Earley, but they (the letters) all came back," said Mario of his effort to contact family members.

He later learned the deceased soldier was the only boy in his family, and that three sisters with married names were the reason for his difficulties in locating the family.

He was not discouraged, however, and almost 60 years later, Mario connected with nephews of Earley.

One nephew, Jim Dolan, a Connecticut state trooper, wrote: "Since childhood, I was told the stories of my uncle, especially from his sister Kathy, who was my grandmother, as well as stories from my father. It was a devastating blow to the Dolan family when he was killed in Korea, one that I believe my grandmother never fully recovered from, however, his short life has served as an inspiration to all of us.

"I've often wondered what actually happened that fateful day in Korea and your posting has certainly given us insight. I do hope all is well with you. I thank you for your service to our great country and your heroic attempt to save my uncle. May God bless you and your family."

The puzzle having been pieced together, Mario, one of his eight children and two grandchildren, journeyed to Connecticut in April of this year, where a memorial service for Earley was held at the cemetery where he is interred. The cermony took place 59 years to the day from when he was killed.

During his pursuits, Mario also connected with the heroics of MSgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, a South Dakota Indian tribe member who in 2008 received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Mario was among those invited to the White House for the presentation by then-President George Bush.

Before his retirement, Iezzoni became trained in television transmitting for the Army, and held numerous highly-responsible assignments.

His career included assignments with the Army Pictoral Center, including flying 150 missions in Vietnam; three inaugural parades; and TV transmitting in Korea.

Now 77, he still has a clear recollection of his days as a private in the Army.

He recalled the moment when he returned to his platoon after carrying Earley to the aid tent.

"The sergeant wasn't happy (wondering where I had been), but, all along, I thought I did something good," he said.

And he did, only not "good," but "great!"

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