Montgomery County man surprised with Bronze Star medal

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Montgomery County man surprised with Bronze Star medal. Nora Muchanic reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on April 7. (WPVI)

Tom Lees of Hatfield, Montgomery County celebrated his 94th birthday in a very special way Friday.

More than 70 years overdue, Lees finally received the Bronze Star he earned during World War II.

The retired pharmaceutical production foreman was an Army radio operator and machine gunner during the Battle of the Bulge, considered the deadliest and most desperate fight against Hitler's German forces.

Lees said, "I was scared, I won't lie and say I wasn't because I was scared. But I think everybody else was scared, but we got through it and I'm glad to be here today."

Lees didn't know he won a Bronze Star. When his son Greg was assembling a military shadow box for Christmas , he began researching his dad's service record.

"Actually he never received any of his metals other than good conduct medal because they hadn't designed them until 1947. He's been my hero since I was a kid. I want to make sure he gets what he's entitled to and that he's honored the way he should be," said Greg Lees.

The medal ceremony was a surprise. Greg got his father there under the guise of a birthday celebration. But instead of saluting Tom's 94th birthday, his friends and family honored his service as retired Major General Wesley Craig pinned on that Bronze Star.

Craig said, "We owe them a great deal, so it's always important to keep history alive. We can learn from that and thank an old soldier like him. And what a gentleman he is. And on his birthday, how great is that?

Daughter-in -Law Denise Lees said, "They are the last of our greatest generation and he's an example of that through and through."

"I feel pretty good about it. I don't know how long I'll be around to enjoy it though. It's a surprise, actually I don't think I deserved it," added Lees.

Tom Lees helped liberate Jews held prisoner at the Buchenwald concentration camp. He lost friends on the bloody battlefields of Europe.

And seven decades later, it's not too late to say thank you for the sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers made.

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