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70 Years Later, Navy Veteran Receives Medals For World War II Service

(CBS) -- Seventy years late, a 91-year-old Navy veteran finally has the medals and ribbons he earned for his service during World War II, reports WBBM's Regine Schlesinger.

Months before the United States entered the war, Joe Hoppe enlisted in the Navy. He was inspired by seeing newsreels of the Nazi blitz of London.

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"Being 17, what can you do? But, you can do something. And I feel we did something," Hoppe said.

He, his brother and two childhood friends went off to war. The three others didn't make it home alive. While he saw action in every theater of the war, Hoppe felt that compared to those who died, he wasn't worthy of the medals and honors he'd earned. But, after Senator Dick Durbin arranged for him to be awarded what he'd earned, he says he came to realize, it was his duty to accept them.

"I can honor the other veterans and all the veterans of every war. And if I don't participate in these things, I'm not honoring anybody," Hoppe said.

joe hoppe
Navy veteran Joe Hoppe being presented with medals and ribbons he earned in World War II. (Source Senator Durbin's Twitter)

Senator Durbin surprised him at his Northwest Side senior citizen's home Monday, presenting Joe Hoppe with his long overdue military medals and decorations.

The honor means a lot to Joe and to his daughter Alison, who wanted the world to know how much her dad sacrificed for all of us.

"My Dad's always been a real humble guy... he doesn't brag but he really deserves this," she said.

Joe courted his wife Charlotte through letters the two exchanged during his time overseas. He was a baker on board the U.S.S. Wichita. Joe says he liked to bake bread and layer cakes for the guys and says he never turned them down when they came asking for food.

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