Frank Rosado Jr. was too intent on getting home to collect the commendations he was due upon his release from the Army in 1945.
On Tuesday, he finally got everything he deserved.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, presented the veteran of the 101st Airborne Division with a collection of a dozen medals and commendations that she said Rosado should have received during World War II.
"He is the finest example of what this community has produced - a true patriot," Castor said at a news conference to present the awards. "We celebrate today the medals that really are a symbol of his bravery, his sacrifice."
Rosado, 83, a Tampa native who served as a member of a mortar team during the war, teared up as he talked about the friends he lost in the war.
"This I'm receiving not only for myself, but for my friends that died in Normandy, in Holland, in the Battle of the Bulge," he said. "Friends that I will never forget."
Castor presented Rosado with commendations from the grateful governments of France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Belgium and France sent representatives to the ceremony.
She also presented Rosado with a European Campaign Medal, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Army Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and a Parachutist Badge.
There appeared to be some confusion about which of the awards Rosado had collected either during the war or in the years afterward.
In an interview, Rosado said he had received nine of the 12 awards before, noting that he had only failed to get the three commendations from the foreign governments.
But Castor's staff said he previously received only the Presidential Unit Citation.
And while Rosado had been awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Castor's office said it had gotten a second Bronze Star for him and a new Purple Heart.
"I'm very proud that my office could play a small role in making sure he and his family receive the medals he is due," Castor said.
Rosado sat beside his wife, Shirley, and was surrounded by family as he received his commendations. His bloodstained jump jacket was on the table in front of him along with the "cricket" he carried during D-Day.
The device made a loud clicking sound so paratroopers could identify each other in the dark.
William R. Levesque can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3436.