Lacie Lowry, News On 6
ROGERS COUNTY -- Patience has paid off for an 88-year-old Green Country man.
Wendell Francis was awarded several medals and badges for his service during World War II and the Korean War. But he never received those medals until Monday.
Francis said he never really thought the day would come.
"That was real nice. I wasn't expecting all that," he said.
Partially because he's waited decades for it, partially because the ceremony in Claremore was a surprise.
"He thought he was coming down just to get a photograph done," Peggy Clattenburg, his daughter, said. "That's the only way I could get him to put a cardigan on rather than his old jacket."
Dressed to the nines, nine was the magic number for the 88-year-old. Last fall, his daughter found his Army discharge papers and the list of medals he was awarded.
"I didn't see them and I said, 'Dad did you ever get these?' and he said no," Clattenburg said.
It turns out there was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center years ago. Francis's record was destroyed, but his discharge papers proved his medals, nine of them, which the family wasn't expecting.
"We were just totally, totally thrilled and he is so proud of his service and we're so proud of him," Clattenburg said. "He's just an amazing man."
Francis was a medic and then switched to a sharpshooter during World War II and later, the Korean War. He doesn't think he's a hero.
"Whenever bullets are striking all around you and things like that, you don't think. You have to do things you aren't prepared for," he said.
Now that he has his medals, the Claremore native, whose birthday is July 4th, is not letting them go.
"It was an honor to serve the military and my country," he said.
Francis was injured in the Battle of the Bulge, but says he came home before his paperwork to receive the Purple Heart was finalized. His family is now trying to track down that medal as well.