ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) — Former B-17 pilot Joyce Johnson, a Racine native, waited 77 years to receive his medals. On the day he turned 100 years old, the wait was finally over.
“All these years, 77 years since then, and the government’s never caught up with him and gotten those to him,” said Dick Krom, the Rochester Veterans Emergency Services Museum president.
For a while, Johnson and his family did not believe this day would come.
“I had kinda given them up, but I was happy to serve my country,” said Johnson.
“We had given up on the idea, we thought there was no chance to get them, and we took their word for it,” said Vicki Hoover, Johnson’s daughter.
A fire in a government building destroyed Johnson’s documentation, which prevented the veteran from obtaining his deserved medals, then Dick Krom stepped in to help. Krom feared that by obtaining Johnson’s medals through government channels, the process would take years, but after some research, he found a way to expedite the process and organize an event for Johnson on his big birthday.
“I’m a citizen that wanted to right a wrong, that’s all,” said Krom. “I didn’t think we had that much time to play with. So I was instructed that we could go right to the company that makes them, and order them direct, and that’s what we did.”
The short ceremony at Soldier’s Field Memorial Park to honor Johnson was a reflection of what he means to his community.
“There’s no medal that could make us think of him more of a hero than we already do,” said Hoover. “He is quite a pillar in our community. He’s the oldest resident in town and he’s done quite a lot for our community and I think they’re all excited for him as well.”
Although known for his time in combat, Johnson also has many hobbies and interests, dancing and rollerblading to name a few. He also had plenty of stories to share.
“When I went to the roller rink in Rochester, I never paid cause they would hand me the whistle and wanted me to control the rollers,” said Johnson. “Skating backwards, and talked to all the people, and had a lot of good memories.”