ELMHURST, Ill. (WLS) -- Veterans at an Elmhurst senior living community were honored in a pinning ceremony Tuesday ahead of the Veterans Day holiday.
They served in combat ranging from Vietnam to World War II and many now live at the Roosevelt at Salt Creek senior residences where the ceremony was held, with participation from York High School military history students, who learned from their stories and awarded them special pins.
Purple Heart recipient Andy Dziagwa served in the Army in the Korean War right after graduating from high school and quickly found himself on the front lines.
"That's what you became accustomed to. And you say 'Hey, I gotta shoot him before he shoots me. And you pray to God you get him," he said.
Many of these veterans were drafted when they turned 18.
Ralph Lawrence, 88, proudly showed off the uniform he wore home after he returned from a 16-month tour during the Korean War in 1956 to student Tommy Schroeder.
"For me it would be this age when you would get drafted. To be forced into that lifestyle, I don't know if I could do it," Schroeder said.
Lawrence wrote letters to his family back home most every day, and he's saved many of them. He brings them out for occasions like this.
"I enjoy these ceremonies, it gives me an opportunity show my souvenirs," he said.
Dziagwa has retold the story of how he earned his Purple Heart after a grenade went off near him while he was trying to save a wounded fellow soldier.
"Three of the enemy leaped up throwing grenades at us. I shot one, Krash shot one and Tenis shot the other one," he said.
Dziagwa turns 95 later this month. Next year he'll celebrate his 70th wedding anniversary. He said that makes it all the more important he share his stories of the war with young people.