APPLETON, Wisc. (WFRV) – It was a moment Arden Mattice thought he might never see.
We first introduced you to him in July as part of “Hometown Heroes.”
On Wednesday, in front of a small crowd of friends and family, a reunion took place that arguably was more than seven decades in the making.
“We were able to find all the medals you qualified for, and we hope you find this, find a place of honor,” says John Koehler with Vets & Friends of Wisconsin, a non-profit that helps connects veterans of all ages.
At 97-years-old, Mattice figured his medals from serving in World War II were gone forever. He was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 at 18-years-old. He ended up being stationed in Italy and was a staff sergeant gunner.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” Mattice explains. “I have no remorse about being in the military.”
The Wasau native moved around a lot. It was during one of those moves his medals went missing.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when a conversation at his 97th birthday revealed those medals were gone.
“My husband had made it his mission to find out what medals he was awarded,” says Kathy Orlowski.
She explains her husband did a similar thing for his dad a few years prior, so he knew how to get the process started.
“We just thought it was really important to find these medals and give them back to him, even though they are not the original medals,” Orlowski adds.
Vets & Friends wanted to make sure they were a part of that process to get those medals back in the hands of Mattice.
“They keep calling me a hero,” says Mattice. “I’ll take the title, but I don’t think I did anything particular to earn that.”
We can all probably agree that’s not the case.