It was a day that took 69 years to get here.
Somehow, Alvin “Red” Benson had made it.
“You are indeed a hero and deserve this much-delayed recognition.”
His father had received a Purple Heart in World War I. His great-grandson, Brant, got his in Afghanistan.
Benson got his, today.
“Red, on behalf of the United States government and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I present you with this Purple Heart as a result of injuries you received in defense of the country during World War II.”
Benson says he can’t remember what happened this morning, but that day in 1945 is still vivid. He was a 25-year-old paratrooper in the Battle of the Bulge. His unit had the Germans pinned down and went in for the decisive blow.
“And they got a mortar shell and dropped it in on us," Benson recalled, "and it killed a radio man and wounded three and that’s when I got hit.”
He was left with a piece of shrapnel in his forehead, but no Purple Heart. He didn’t care, and that approach wasn’t uncommon back then.
“They went, fought the war and they were just ready to come home and forget the war instead of pursuing on,” said Benson's grandson, Eric Kuhnz.
In 1973, the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis burned and the files of 80% of World War II Army veterans were gone forever. Benson’s family has worked for years to restore his.
“He had received a letter," said Benson's daughter, Pamela Deardorff, "and it said that he was put on a waiting list and that it was first come, first served basis.”
“You’ve heard the old saying ‘Hurry up and wait?’" Benson asked, "That’s Army.”
With the help of the Veterans Affairs office in Union County and Senator Tom Harkin, the good news finally came and Benson at last got what he’s deserved for so long.
Thanks, handshakes and a moment with the microphone.
“It took all of us to win this war,” he told the large crowd gathered at the Prairie View Assisted Living Center in Creston.
Alvin “Red” Benson nearly died in the service of his country in 1945.
After 69 years, his country finally remembered.
“It’s a long time coming,” Benson said.