Polk Co. WWII vet receives overdue Bronze Star 68 years later

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. - A 91-year-old man from Polk County was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions during the Pearl Harbor attack in World War II Monday.

Eyewitness News learned he would have never known he received the medal if it weren't for a tragic life event.

Emotion floods Homer Allem moments after receiving an honor he never imagined.

He was honored for jumping into action during the Japanese-led attack, but he didn't think much of it at the time, nor when he was discharged a few years later.

"A 23-year-old fresh out of the service isn't going to read the back of a discharge slip to see what he got, so I didn't really worry about it," Allem said.

Allem was discharged in 1945. It wasn't until four months ago, when his wife Ruth passed away, that officials realized he deserved much more.

Allem was making arrangements to bury his wife at Bushnell National Cemetery and the staff there made the discovery while looking at Allem's discharge papers.

"The gentleman behind the desk, he says, 'Congratulations for your valor.' I said, 'What are you talking about? He said, 'Well you have the Bronze Star medal,' I said, 'I don't have any medal,'" Allem said.

Now, 68 years after his service, he has the Bronze Star and several other medals of honor.

He said he doesn't think he deserves any of them, a sense of humility he said his wife would have also shared.

"Knowing her, she'd be fit to say the same thing as me: Too much," Allem said.

The Veterans Administration estimates that there are 1.2 million World War II veterans alive out of 16 million men and women who served the United States during the war.