By Damien SalasJuly 21, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (July 21, 2014) -- Retired Lt. Col. Ralph W. Kuethe, 95, was awarded a Silver Star medal in Conmy Hall here, July 11, 70 years after serving in World War II.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner presented Kuethe, a Minneapolis native, the Silver Star, which is the third-highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to any person serving in the U.S. armed forces.
"Today we are here to celebrate a hero from our greatest generation," said Warner. "A generation that fought our toughest war."
During World War II, Kuethe led a withdrawal of Soldiers and organized the men into a defensive position in a battle lasting from the evening of Sept. 22, 1944, until the next morning.
The medal originally was awarded to the wrong Soldier decades ago, but a recent recommendation to the Army provided Kuethe with the recognition he deserved.
"This reminds us that public service should be valued," said Warner. "This award spent 70 years in the wrong place, but we are here today to right that wrong."
Kuethe's history with the Army began with the draft, in 1942. Just 23 years old, he spent the majority of his life in Minneapolis until ending up in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he applied for Infantry Officer Candidate School, was accepted and graduated, in 1943.
During the war, Kuethe fought many battles, suffered injuries and led successful assaults against German forces, until January 1945, when shrapnel from a mortar struck him, landing him in European and American hospitals for 14 months.
During his first two 90-day convalescent leaves from the hospital, he met and married his wife of 69 years, Dorothy. They now have a daughter and two sons.
"We are just so proud," said Dorothy. "He really loved serving in the military, so it feels good to watch him receive this award."
After the ceremony, Kuethe spent several minutes chatting with fellow retirees and service members about his service in World War II, while proudly sporting the Silver Star medal over his heart.
"This has been a long time coming," he said jokingly. "It took almost 70 years, but I am proud to be here today accepting this award."