Sledge's wife Jeanne was so touched by Mazzello's characterization in the just-concluded HBO series that she sent a special gift to the actor -- her late husband's pipe.
"She was so moved she actually sent Eugene's actual pipe he had his whole life," Mazzello tells PopcornBiz. This is the same pipe that is represented throughout the series by the soldier seeking calm amidst the horrors of war.
"It really took me back," Mazzello says, "I'm going to cherish that forever."
While Sledge died in 2001, Mazzello spent time with the Sledge family, and the couple's two sons -- John and Henry.
Much of the HBO series is based on Sledge's memoir of battle "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa," which Mazzello read. But spending time with the family gave him further insight to the man he portrayed.
The soldier's oldest son, John, never saw the series however. It was too difficult for him and he had to leave a special screening in Mobile, Alabama, as the opening credits rolled. "He couldn't even watch it," says Mazzello. " It's something he saw his father live with and be tortured by his entire life."
"He told me he hopes to watch it someday."