- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) - After a 70-year wait, a World War II veteran from the Fox Valley received a long-overdue award.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Fred Zurbuchen, 89, received a Purple Heart medal in a surprise ceremony attended by his family at the Experimental Aircraft Association museum in Oshkosh on Thursday afternoon.

“I can’t say the right words,” Zurbuchen said. “It’s unbelievable to think that I got the medal finally. I tried everything possible to get it, never succeeded.”

Zurbuchen enlisted in the Army when he was 17 and served as a B-17 gunner on 25 missions in the skies of Germany. He was wounded during his 10th mission but returned to his turret just two weeks later.

The aircraft association’s Chris Henry met Zurbuchen earlier this year and learned about his injuries. Zurbuchen’s paperwork for a Purple Heart had been destroyed in a fire and he was upset that he hadn’t received the honor despite being wounded in combat.

“It’s just something you earn and something you should get. It’s that simple,” Zurbuchen said. “There were many others and that’s still an ongoing thing of trying to get these World War II veterans their medals.”

Henry succeeded in securing the recognition for Zurbuchen. He asked Zurbuchen to meet him at the museum, saying there was a ball turret display he wanted to show him. He didn’t know that his longtime wish to receive the medal he deserved would finally come true.

WLUK-TV reports a uniformed military representative presented the medal to Zurbuchen, thanking him for his valor and bravery so many years ago.

“On behalf of Army aviators past, present, and future, allow me to extend my most heartfelt thank you for the inspiration you’ve given us all for your acts of valor and bravery,” the representative told the WWII veteran.

Zurbuchen said he’s the last survivor of his crew. He said he looks back and wonders where all the years have gone.


Information from: WLUK-TV, https://www.fox11online.com

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