PITTSBURGH — Nearly 70 years after he earned it, Aaron Narvol has his Purple Heart.
Wounded in the Battle of Okinawa, Narvol had long deserved the honor but only received it Thursday, on his 93rd birthday.
"I never thought I'd get it," Narvol told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review of the medal he now refuses to take off. "That there is here to stay."
Narvol had tried several times to petition for the medal for the bullet wound he received while trying to save a fellow soldier who had been shot by Japanese snipers, but failed each time.
Already awarded two bronze stars and a silver star, Narvol told workers at the hospice center where he receives care that he wanted to try again for the Purple Heart.
The hospice contacted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who had his staff scour Narvol's military records. Casey's office believes a post-war name change – from Narvolansky to Narvol – may have complicated earlier attempts to claim the medal.
"It's a generation that we can't do enough to pay tribute to," Casey said.
Narvol was wounded in the leg while trying to lift another solider to safety. His comrade didn't make it, but Narvol returned home, working 40 years in a deli and raising two children.
"He was in the jungle for 3 1/2 years," said Narvol's son, Todd, a Harrisburg attorney. "It was a big part of his life and had a profound impact on it."