World War II Veteran Receives Medals 72 Years Later - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

World War II Veteran Receives Medals 72 Years Later

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HIXSON, TN (WRCB) -

A local veteran was honored in Hixson for his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II and June 6th, 1944 D-Day. 

The medals he earned in the war,  were not presented until Tuesday.  

Reporter: "What do you think about all of this? Thomas Caldwell: " Well it's something new for me." 

Gunners Mate Third Class, Thomas Caldwell was all smiles as friends and family gathered for a party. It was held at his residence, Brooksdale Retirement Home in Hixson. 

They honored his service and sacrifice while serving in the United States Navy during World War II.

Caldwell has struggled with Alzheimer's Disease the last several years. While his memories are fading, his family vows to never forget. 

"He was actually at Normandy beach which I think is a really big deal," said daughter Becky Wilson. "He said that he was on the ship and he looked down in the water and there was someone in the water that was injured and he dove in and got a hold of the soldier. He would swim for a little bit and he would get tired. He said when he would get tired, he would relax and the soldier's head would go under water and he would hear him gurgling so he would try to pull back up so the soldier could breathe." 

Caldwell never knew what happened to that young soldier, only that the two had made it back onto the ship safely.  

"That's an old picture," said Caldwell when looking at his military photos. 

Caldwell who turns 92-years-old in December, joined the service on his 18th birthday and served for about 3 years. 

"Like most of the military people that have been involved in a war, they don't really talk about it," said Harv Turner, Caldwell's nephew. "Since he never talked about it, most people didn't even know he was authorized those medals and awards or didn't know that he had not received them." 

Now 72 years later, he's being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal, along with two other medals of service. 
It's a recognition long overdue and much appreciated. 

"I didn't know I was so good," said Caldwell. 

"It's nice to see that he finally got what he earned and deserved," said Turner. 

Thomas Caldwell's family says had they not investigated his military records. they might not have ever known that these medals were earned but never presented. 

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