WWII vet receives Bronze Star on 92nd birthday

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) A World War II veteran waited nearly 70 years to receive a long-overdue award.

Evon "Bud" Pennington received his Bronze Star on his 92nd birthday, The Mail-Tribune reported.

Pennington was surrounded Saturday afternoon by family and friends to mark the occasion.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's office presented him the Bronze Star in a small ceremony in the family's backyard in Medford.

"We can't thank him enough for his service," said John Howard, who is Walden's director of constituent services.

Pennington was an Army infantryman who served in the Pacific campaign of World War II, helping take the island of Okinawa.

The Bronze Star is recognized across every branch of the military and is one of the highest combat honors a soldier can receive.

He won this honor, as well as a Purple Heart and other honors, for an attack that left his jeep in pieces and piled in a deep hole.

"I was in the bottom of that hole," he said. "You don't survive that, but I did. They threw a lot of those rockets in the air and I just happened to be in the way of one of them."

He spent three weeks recuperating from the rocket attack. To this day, he still doesn't know how he possibly survived such a close encounter with a 30 mm rocket.

Among his other medals was a Combat Infantryman's Badge, which was awarded only to Army veterans. However, the Army adopted a policy in 1947 in which anyone awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge would retroactively receive a Bronze Star.

Pennington's daughter, Janice Howes, was scanning The Washington Post in her Virginia home last year when she came across a story about an Army veteran receiving his belated Bronze Star.

"I saw that and thought it was a good idea that they are doing that for the vets," she said.

She sent a copy of Pennington's discharge papers to the federal government, who checked his record to see if he was eligible for the medal.

The result of her investigation came on Saturday in west Medford.

After accepting the Bronze Star, the retired millworker settled in his chair to enjoy the rest of his birthday party.

"I'm 92 and I feel pretty good," Pennington said.