Some 69 years, two months and six days after being shot by a German sniper on a French battlefield in World War II, Martin Medellin, 88, got a long-awaited surprise.
Medellin went to his local VFW post for a fundraising dinner. When it was over, Medellin was pinned with a Purple Heart for an injury he sustained during the war.
Medellin was injured while he rescued 283 soldiers trapped by machine gun fire.
The ceremony would not have happened if not for his longtime friend, Michael De Cesare, who was determined to get his friend the honor he deserved. “I was working to help him out, writing different letters to different people and not getting much results,” De Cesare told ABC News. “But I kept pushing forward.”
Medellin has waited a long time for this special honor. Since he had been treated by a medic and not at a hospital, there was no official record of his injuries.
“He (Martin) was extremely emotional over this, he’s very grateful and very happy,” said De Cesare. Medellin is well-known in the community. De Cesare says he is referred to as “The General” around the VFW.
“He’s the first guy to put his step forward and help anybody out,” De Cesare told ABC News.
The ceremony was kept a secret from Medellin and his family. De Cesare, however, is not looking for any recognition. “I just wanted to help him and his family and if I could do that, that is a satisfaction in itself,” said De Cesare. “I was just helping out a fellow friend and a fellow veteran.”