98-year-old World War II Veteran honored for service

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COLUMBIA - Walter Rolley Jr. served in the United States Army for three years during World War II, and Tuesday, 80 years since first enlisting, he was recognized for his service by the state of Missouri.

At a ceremony at the American Legion in Columbia, Rolley, now 98, was presented with a certificate called the Award for Patriotic Services. He was also given a medal and a resolution from Missouri Senator Caleb Rowden’s office.

Rolley, who was born and raised in Columbia, said he didn’t expect this kind of ceremony for himself.

“I’m surprised, I’m really surprised,” Rolley said. “I didn’t think Columbia would do all of this.”

Rolley's family and friends packed into the American Legion for the event. His daughter Madeline Rolley worked to get her father recognized and was appreciative he was able to see this day.

“He’s 98 years old and for him to still be in his right mind and able to get around and to be recognized by the state and honored today is truly a blessing,” Madeline Rolley said. “I thank God for him being a part of history, being a part of the United States Army. He’s so special to me and the family.”

Walter Rolley Jr. dropped out of Frederick Douglass High School when he was 18 to help his father, working at a coal mine. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army, eventually earning the rank of sergeant.

In December, he was given an honorary high school diploma from Douglass. To honor veterans lost in the educational system, the Missouri legislature created a statue in 2001 called Operation Recognition. The statute grants honorary high school diplomas to veterans and civilian prisoners of war.

Madeline Rolley said she is thrilled her father is finally getting recognition for his services and accomplishments.

“I thank God for him serving his country, for his family and being a part of the community in Columbia. I just can’t thank my dad enough and I thank God for letting me care for my father,” she said.