INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An overdue celebration took place Tuesday honoring a veteran who has spent the majority of his life without several distinguished awards.
Paul Wagner, 93, was pinned with five medals at Altenheim Family-first Senior Living, where he and his wife now reside.
Presenting the awards was U.S. Senator Todd Young. The five medals and honors given to Wagner were:
- Bronze Star Medal
- POW Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award
- Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII
At the age of 20, Wagner was captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and held as a prisoner of war by the German Army. His release would come four months later but the Army serviceman would need to spend another month in a hospital to recover before getting to return to family.
It was Wagner's grandson, Alan Alte who organized the festivities. “Listening to his story and knowing what he’s been through, taking shrapnel in the Battle of the Bulge, he became a POW and volunteered to serve his country," he said. "For him to not have any of it, it meant a lot to me that he had the awards awarded to him.”
Alte is currently enlisted in the Army National Guard as a Sergeant First Class.
As for Wagner, there were times in his life, and even on Tuesday, where the medals weren't even on his radar.
“So many years had gone by, and I really wanted interested," the World War II veteran said.
Wagner likely could have gotten the honors when he returned from overseas, but the former POW had plans of his own.
“He went to visit the monastery and that is where he stayed for 26 years," said Paul's wife of close to 50 years, Beverly Wagner. "He was a monk.”
It was during his time behind enemy lines where Wagner considered life after the war. A life he thought would never happen.
“In that moment I thought I was going to die," Wagner recalled. "I was 20 years old I said I never did anything real bad, but I never did anything good. What I want to pass on is I wanted to do something worthwhile before I die."
Alte said Wagner never wanted the ceremony because he didn't want the recognition, but Wagner said there was one thing he'd like to see come from the event.
“If I help someone to find Jesus or become more religious, I would do it every day," the veteran said.