A Purple Heart ceremony 72 years in the making was held at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, Friday.
John Pedevillano, 94, of College Park, Maryland, received the Purple Heart for his service during World War II.
Second Lt. Pedevillano’s bomber was shot down over Nazi Germany in April 1944. Sustaining injuries from the crash, he was held captive at Stalag Luft III -- a prisoner of war camp in what is now Zagan, Poland -- until Allied forces liberated him in 1945.
“All I can say is I love this country,” Pedevillano said. “The greatest things of my life was this country and my wife.”
After returning home, Pedevillano’s modesty prevented him from seeking recognition for his service. It wasn’t until 2016, when his daughter tracked down his long-lost military records, that the scope of his service came to light.
His daughter worked with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and other officials to get her father the recognition that led to the Purple Heart ceremony.
Pedevillano was a member of the 306th Bomb Group, serving as a bombardier on the B-17 “Miss Carriage.”
Major Gen. James Jacobson, commander of the Air Force District of Washington, presented Pedevillano with the Purple Heart along with a birthday card from the secretary of the Air Force. Pedevillano turns 95 July 19.
At the ceremony, Pedevillano told the media he’s looking forward to the day he can be reunited with his wife, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. When he passes, Pedevillano will be buried at Arlington as well.