“I was absolutely overwhelmed:” WWII veteran gets his wings back

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- A World War II veteran who was stripped of his medals nearly 75 years ago was repinned on Saturday.

Virgil Westdale was part of the most decorated battalion in military history: the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, after he was stripped of his Army Air Corps badge during the war because he was a Japanese-American. Westdale had his pilot's license taken away and was demoted to a Private in the Army. 75 years later, Westdale got his wings back, along with a celebration of his 100th birthday.

It was a moment decades in the making that many say never needed to happen.

"It was the restoration of his Army Air Corps Badge," said Lt. Col. Steve Kenyon. "That is 75 years after it was wrongfully taken away from him, so it's a pretty big deal."

"It was great," said Westdale. "They're still working on it to hopefully make it absolutely official from the military."

The wings were given to Westdale by a Michigan local and veteran.

"Those wings came from Army Captain John James who was a combat pilot in Iraq," said Kenyon. "Those wings were in combat. John is running for senate here in the state. John donated his wings."

"I was absolutely overwhelmed," said Westdale.

After the ceremony, Westdale, a lifelong dancer, danced across the stage with his granddaughter.

"I'm not as agile as I used to be," said Westdale.

"For him to have this big celebration and all of the lives he's touched is just incredible," said granddaughter Lyndsay Westdale. "Not only friends and family, but people from the military have come to celebrate him, so that's very cool."

It was a big day celebrating a war hero, with hundreds of people in attendance.

"I never expected that many people to be here," said Westdale.

"It's an all-American birthday celebration," said Kenyon. "What he did during the war is phenomenal."

"For him to be my grandpa is something super special," said Lyndsay. "I'm super proud of him and everything he's accomplished."

Westdale was part of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Two Holocaust survivors were in attendance for the ceremony on Saturday, both were seen posing for pictures with Westdale.

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9 comments

  • Clucko

    Every time I hear some sniveling, whiny liberal complain about the treatment of illegal aliens in our country, I compare it with the treatment of Japanese and Japanese/Americans during World War II. The administration of FDR rounded up over 120,000 people, including citizens, and they were were taken to internment camps for that duration of the war. I’m guessing that most of today’s hands-off liberals who champion the future of illegals are ignorant of this blemish on American history. They’d do well to find out what happened in the 40s. Maybe some might actually have some pangs of shame, but I doubt it.

      • Art Lee

        It is absolutely real. You should perhaps take a better look at our history. The man had earned his AAF wings prior to Pearl Harbor. He was stripped of them demoted to private ad sent into the infantry,because of who he is and public sentiment after. He was part of the 442 RCT “Go for Broke”. A unit that was sent to Europe to keep them away from the Japanese in the Pacific theater of operations. A large portion of which came from Hawaii ad wanted to fight the Japanese forces that had attacked their homeland, because of who they were. Not clickbait not fake news. Did you watch the video even ?

  • Robert Rimar

    This story really should be edited to remove the “stripped of his medals” hyperbole. He was reassigned from the Army Air Corps to the 442nd.

    • Art Lee

      To a civilian they would most probably appear to be medals. The improper identification of an award as a decoration hardly matters. A small part of true national shame has been largely corrected. That is the story here.