SUNRISE BEACH -Ted Koviak fought in nine different invasions. He liberated POW's from the Bataan death march. He was away from his family for three years. He described the pain of missing birthdays and once home, being told he would have to pay for his medals.
"In fact they told us if we wanted our medals, I had to buy them if I wanted to wear them," Koviak said.
During the war, Mr. Koviak didn't get to meet his child until he was three years old. Ted Koviak Jr. grew up to become a St. Louis detective.
"I carried around locks of his hair. We lost him about six years ago. He had a heart attack," Koviak Sr. said. "I didn't believe it because I'd been gone so long."
Mr. Koviak had nearly forgotten about the medals he never received. KOMU contacted the Missouri Veterans Commission. With the help of the American Legion Post in Sunrise Beach Mr. Koviak received a very important package.
"Part of the problem is they had a fire in 1973 and it destroyed a lot of the WWII veterans records," T-bone Head, American Legion Veterans Service Officer, said.
T-Bone Head worked for six months trying to get Mr. Koviak's medals expedited. We are losing our WWII veterans at a rate of more than 20 a day in Missouri. Koviak is 91 years old. His day finally came, albeit 65 years late.
"That was a different war. Nowadays they'll come home and they have a big party greeting them," Florence Koviak said.
Mrs. Koviak says there was no party. So to her, her husband's medal celebration, although 65 years late was still worth waiting for.
"I appreciate it but I didn't deserve all this. I think about the guys who gave their life. There was five guys from my neighborhood where I grew up but didn't come back. You see, I was lucky and I thought about the guys who didn't come back," Koviak said.