WWII veteran finally receives medals 72 years after service

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It's never too late to honor a veteran - even seven decades late.

William Gilbert, 94, served in the Navy during World War II and earned several honors, but never got any of them until now.

Gilbert finished serving in the U.S. Navy in 1946, a military career that took him into the Pacific Theater during World War II. Like many of his fellow sailors, Gilbert was expected to receive medals for his service, but it took him a little bit longer to receive his... 72 years longer.

"When you get to my age, everything will strike you," Gilbert said.

It's been 72 years since Gilbert was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, and 73 years since the end of World War II, where Gilbert served in the Pacific Theater aboard U.S.S. Indiana. The member of the Greatest Generation received a great honor last week, WHAS reports.

"They're not many of them left. The ones that are, we need to treasure, and we need to take every opportunity to make sure that they get the recognition that they so richly deserve," said Michael Jabaley.

It's a recognition that's more than seven decades overdue. After the war, Gilbert never received his service medals.

"He's been waiting for this for a long time. He really has. He talks about it all the time," said Wanda Coleman, Gilbert's daughter-in-law.

Coleman told the staff at Robley Rex VA Medical Center - where Gilbert is now a patient - about her father-in-law's long wait.

"He was patient. He was patient but he was real adamant about it because he knew he had it coming. He knew he should have it coming," Coleman said.

Last Thursday, Gilbert's waiting came to an end. Surrounded by three generations of his family, the veteran finally received the medals he earned all those years earlier by defending the free world.

"I was just proud. I was very proud. I'm happy for him. I'm very happy for him," Coleman said.

"It feels good. It feels real good to get it. It does feel good to get it," Gilbert said.

"I just can't explain how wonderful this is. I'm just so thankful they made it happen for him. I really am," Coleman said.

The emotions were hard to put into words, but clearly seen in the smile of the man, who after a lifetime of waiting, finally got ot show off his medals - a thank you for his service.