It was a ceremony complete with dignitaries, cake, flags, and plenty of people wanting to have their pictures taken with an American hero.
U.S. Army Corporal Ivan "Bruce" O'Neal waited almost 70 years to receive the Bronze Star he earned during in World War II. He was presented with it in a ceremony Thursday in Hernando, Miss.
Corporal O'Neal, who describes himself as humble, said he knew he earned the Bronze Star but never pursued it. It took one of his family members contacting U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to make it happen.
"He's fantastic. He grew up in Mississippi on a farm with eight brothers and sisters," said O'Neal's niece Jennifer Sheppard. "Six of the seven brothers all went to WWII. He was the baby."
Near the end of WWII Corporal O'Neal from Sledge, Miss., was with the Army's Fighting 97th Infantry Division in some of the fiercest battles in German-occupied France.
"This was a time when the country was united. The country was fighting Hitler," Sen. Wicker said. "He got out of high school got right into the Army, did his job in Europe, and then went on to the Pacific. He is just the kind of people that make our country great."
Some seven decades ago, he earned the Bronze Star, which may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service.
"I just didn't pursue it," O'Neal said. "But one of my nephews pursued it and pursued it and got it done."
So in a ceremony in the DeSoto County Courthouse, Corporal O'Neal was finally presented with the Bronze Star he earned so many decades ago. He earned it for among other things keeping his composure on the battlefield during intense fighting.
As for how he did that, Corporal O'Neal seemed to be at a loss for words.
"Well, I don't know. It's hard to answer that. It's just like life, you know? You trudge along, and you just take advantage of the good," O'Neal said as his eyes got distant and welled up with tears.
The Bronze Star the fourth highest military award a military veteran can receive.