HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (WLS) -- A north suburban World War II veteran will soon receive a long-awaited honor at the nation's capitol.
Bernie Bluestein said when he signed up for a special World War II army unit, he thought would avoid the front lines.
"It said no fighting," Bluestein said. "That's good. I don't want to have to fight."
It's quite an honorBernie Bluestein, Ghost Army WWII veteran
However, he was on the front lines... as a decoy. He was part of a top-secret unit called the "Ghost Army." Their goal was to look like a huge army unit, using inflatable fake tanks and equipment to draw German forces to attack during World War II.
The unit saved thousands of lives of the real soldiers in Europe. That's why congress is awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal
"It's quite an honor," Bluestein said. "How many people get a medal from the government? It's astounding really."
Bluestein lives in Hoffman Estates and is100 years old. His hometown is Palatine. He is one of a handful of surviving members of the "Ghost Army."
Information about the unit remained classified until the mid-1990s. Bluestein's son Keith grew up never realizing what his father did in the war.
"I couldn't believe there was a unit like that," Keith said. "That they're guys were used as decoys."
Rick Beyer has chronicled the "Ghost Army" for nearly two decades, writing a book and producing a movie about the unit. He also led the lobbying effort in Congress for the unit to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
"I'm humbled by what they did and grateful to have an opportunity to tell the story of what they did," Beyer said.
Bernie Bluestein is also a talented artist. His apartment is filled with his work.
He is one of seven serving members of the "Ghost Army" expected to receive their medal in March in Washington D.C. Actor Gary Sinise paid the expenses for the group. The actual medal will be on display at the Smithsonian Museum.