Man gets WWII medals after nearly 70 years

Published 9:37 am Friday, August 2, 2013

Paul Birkel likes to sit in his Deering home and reminisce about his days as an Army Air Force bomber during World War II.

Birkel was stationed in Norwich, England, a member of the Mighty Eighth Air Force and supplied fuel for Gen. George Patton’s troops. He even lied about his age to join the military at 17.

Sharing stories with his grandchildren, Kyle and Brady, he found something was always missing — his own medals.

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The 90-year-old man never received his decorations from his four years of service.

“We’ve been trying to get them (the medals) for him for a long time,” Kara Birkel, the man’s daughter-in-law, said. “They claimed they sent them to him but we have never been able to find them. If they were sent, someone stole them from the mailbox or something.”

Since about 2005, his family has been trying to get what Birkel had earned through his service to his country, and Wednesday, all the hard work finally paid off.

Birkel was finally presented with his honors at the Veterans Services Office.

Jack Welz, veterans services officer, gave the man his Good Conduct Medal, Honorable Service lapel button, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal and WWII Victory Medal.

“I’m really proud of him,” Bryan Birkel, the man’s son, said. “It’s great to have a father like him.”

Welz said Birkel was excited to find out the medals were coming through finally.

“They are deserving of it and they served their country honorably,” Welz said. “They deserve the entitlements they are entitled to. I am here to assist in them accomplishing that. If they know what they want, I make sure they get it.”

Birkel was all smiles and when asked if it felt good to have the medals, he said, “My goodness yes.”