MONDOVI, Wis. -- More than 60 years after completing a distinguished career in World War II, a Mondovi veteran has received the Distinguished Flying Cross and seven other medals.
Doug Ward, 89, said he was grateful to be recognized, but especially touched that many of his fellow veterans were on hand to watch U.S. Rep. Ron Kind present him with the medals Sunday.
"It's an honor. Anytime you get a medal it's an honor," Ward said.
The western Wisconsin native served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, flying missions over North Africa, Italy and Germany.
After all these years, it wasn't clear whether Ward had misplaced his medals or simply never received them. Either way, Kind said that after meeting Ward several years ago, he was determined to make things right.
"We started working on that and the paperwork to make sure the silent heroes in our community are getting the recognition and the awards they deserve," Kind said.
Ward served from 1942 through 1945. He still remembers his three years as a gunner in a B-17.
"We could see the ships down there on D-Day crossing the channel. Like they said you could almost walk across it, there was so many. It was quite a sight," Ward said.
He knew he had earned prestigious medals – including the Distinguished Flying Cross, World War II Victory Medal and the American Campaign Medal – but Ward didn't dwell on their absence. After the war, he returned home and focused his attention on his new career as a mail carrier.
He also dispensed advice to younger generations on Sunday, reminding them that hard work brings success.
"Your determination in life can be so much of what you can do," Ward said.
When he finally received his medals, he said he was thankful for the recognition, but also for the gathering of friends and fellow veterans who attended the ceremony.
"This is where all my friends are today, now you can see the gathering here," he said Sunday. "It's quite a tribute they paid to me."