WEST POINT - Surrounded by friends and family on Sunday, George "Hap" Talbott Jr. basked in the glow of a recognition deferred for 68 years.
"Did you ever have goose pimples and didn't know what caused it?" Talbott said, describing the feeling of finally receiving his World War II medals at age 90.
Talbott, of Highlandtown, turns 90 today, but his relatives decided to turn his birthday party into a medal ceremony on Sunday at the VFW Post 66 Camp on Y-Camp Road. Five generations of the family were present, including two great-great-grandchildren.
Morning Journal/Stephen Huba
George “Hap” Talbott Jr. flashes a smile while being interviewed Sunday during his 90th birthday party, which doubled as a medal ceremony for his World War II military service. The wooden case he is holding was made by his nephew, Ray Talbott, and holds all his medals.
"It's beautiful," Talbott said.
Ray Talbott, of East Liverpool, organized the event after learning in May that his uncle had never received his medals for his service in World War II. "It was kind of a rush thing. Everybody just pitched in," he said.
Talbott contacted his niece, Lisa Fix, an employee at the Columbiana County Veteran Service Commission in Lisbon, about researching his uncle's military record and honors. Fix found a copy of Talbott's discharge papers, known as a DD Form 214, at the Columbiana County Courthouse. The original papers were destroyed in a fire at an Army facility in St. Louis, she said.
"It was awesome doing research on his story and trying to figure it out," Fix said. "How many 90-year-old World War II veterans are there left? Not many."
The discharge papers enumerate the medals that Talbott had coming to him, but Fix also learned that Talbott should have been awarded the Bronze Star by virtue of having earned the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Born in Chester, W.Va., Talbott was inducted into the U.S. Army in October 1943 at age 19. He spent two years and four months in active duty during World War II as part of the 1st Infantry Division, 16th Infantry Regiment, Charlie Company.
Talbott's unit saw action on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, whose 70th anniversary was celebrated on June 6. Talbott was injured during the battle of Normandy, and several months later while fighting in northern France.
Talbott suffered his second injury during combat in Belgium, where the 16th Regiment helped destroy six German divisions in September 1944.
Talbott was discharged from the Army in February 1946, and, over the years, he said he didn't think much about the medals.
"He just didn't know he had all these medals coming to him," Ray Talbott said.
The medals include the Combat Infantryman Badge, the World War II American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the World War II Victory Medal, the D-Day Commemorative Medal, the Honorable Service Lapel Button, the Army Sharpshooter Badge and the Distinguished Unit Badge, later known as the Presidential Unit Citation.
Fix said it takes four to six months to order a medal set from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, so she and Ray Talbott ordered them online from a company that contracts with the Army.
Talbott made the wooden and glass case that holds the medals and that his uncle held so closely on Sunday.
Family members said they were glad to see Talbott get the recognition he deserves.
"Our pap is such a wonderful man," said granddaughter Michelle Parson, of New Philadelphia. "You can't find anyone to say a bad thing about him."
"He is a great man," said granddaughter Leigh Hartline, of Lisbon. "Very loving, very giving."