On Nov. 11, World War II veteran Earl Bailey received ribbons and medals he had earned during his service but never received.
The long-overdue medals ceremony for Bailey took place at his church, Tri County Assembly Church in Fairfield, on Veterans Day.
Bailey’s grandson and daughter concocted a surprise party with the help of a local lawmaker, who interceded to help get Bailey’s medals, and a retired three-star general who flew from Washington, D.C. to present them.
Bailey was just 18 years old when he entered the Army Air Corps in 1943.
“Growing up, we always knew Grandpa was in the Army. He served in World War II. But he didn’t share a whole lot about his experiences,” said Steve Bailey.
Bailey’s daughter, Norma Apgar, said her father loves his country.
“He is as patriotic today as he was when he went in the service,” said Apgar, Steve Bailey’s aunt.
Earl Bailey served in the China-Burma-India theater, a mountainous and dangerous area where he ran supplies.
“The pilots would have to fly over this mountain. And he said it was so tall that they had to use oxygen,” said Apgar said.
Earl Bailey served for three years until the war was won, but he never received his war medals.
“He told me he didn’t get the medals because during World War II all the metal was used for the war,” said Apgar.
Bailey didn’t make much of it. Then Steve, also a veteran, took him on an Honor Flight.
“He said, ‘I would just love to see them. I would love to hold them,’ ” the grandson said. Steve and his aunt said they didn’t know how to get the medals. But, in a sense, the medals came to them.
A Dayton area state lawmaker, Niraj Antani, was canvassing Steve’s area. Steve mentioned his grandfather and his medals and Antani went right to work.
“He got on his phone and right there emailed and copied me with it to Congressman Mike Turner’s office. And, I sent it to them and they got a hold of me a couple days later,” Steve said.
A couple weeks later, he picked up the medals.
The included the American Campaign Medal, Asianic Pacific Medal with three gold stars, Good Conduct Medal and Victory Medal. The latter is given to all the soldiers for winning the war, Steve Bailey said.
There also was a blue Presidential Citation Award, marksman award and service lapel pin.
It was all kept a secret until last Sunday’s service.
“I was surprised,” Earl Bailey said of receiving the medals after 73 years. “I didn’t expect anything like this.”
Earl Bailey said he had no regrets.
“If I was young enough and able enough and they needed me, I’d still go,” the 94-year-old said.
This article contains reporting by Journal-News media partner WCPO.