A U.S. Army veteran from Wisconsin who served in the Korean War received four medals in a surprise ceremony Friday night — nearly seven decades after his service — with 90 family members, including eight of his 10 children, in attendance.
Don Van Elzen was not aware that he’d earned the medals until the gathering at his son Joe’s home in Ashwaubenon, near Green Bay, WFRV-TV reported. The medals were a Korean Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal, the report said.
“I don’t deserve all this attention,” Van Elzen told the station afterward. “This is great recognition. I didn’t expect this at all.”
Van Elzen served in the Army’s 9th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division from 1950 to 1952, with 21 months spent in Korea, according to the report. During his time of service, he received a Purple Heart after suffering an injury, the report said. Why he hadn’t received the other medals until Friday wasn’t immediately clear.
Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Ammerman presented the medals to Van Elzen, who has spread his love of country to his grandchildren: Three of them serve in the military, the station reported.
“You keep putting medals on (me), I ain’t gonna be able to stand up,” Van Elzen later joked.