SPANISH FORK -- It was a day of overdue honors for a 90-year-old sharpshooter who marched miles across Europe.
More than 65 years after he returned from World War II, the Spanish Fork veteran finally wears the seven medals he earned.
Proud family members of the humble veteran were determined to get him his medals -- and not just any medals. The infantryman received the Bronze Star for battlefield achievement and six others.
Samuel D. Banz fought in France and Germany with E Company, 242nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division. He served on the front lines, penetrated the heart of Nazi Germany and helped liberate numerous cities and the concentration camp in Dachau.
Banz's nephew Van Canann said he heard that his uncle was a hero and once asked to see his medals.
"I said, ‘Where are they?' He replied, ‘I never got them. I was in too much of a hurry to get the discharge and get home,'" Canann said.
Canann learned that his uncle's military records, and millions more, were destroyed in a 1973 fire in St. Louis. Approximately 16-18 million official military personnel files went up in smoke.
His family persisted and gathered their documentation. Thursday, during a special ceremony at the Spanish Fork Armory, Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the commanding general of the Utah National Guard, presented Banz with the overdue Bronze Star Medal.
"Yeah, the Army's a little slow in getting our recognition done," Tarbet said.
He said it was his honor to present the medals. "It's important to recognize service and sacrifice and courage, whether it's 60 years ago or today," he said.
For his part, Banz said he never dreamed anything like this would happen. While these medals are long overdue, Banz says he's not a hero.
"I did what I was told to do," he said, "and that's what we all did."
Banz now appreciates his family's perseverance. But, more than six decade ago he just wanted to be done with the war.
"I wasn't too happy about going in," he said. "I was happy to get out, so I could get home to my family."
Banz was presented with the Bronze star, along with a Good Conduct Medal; a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Bronze Star attachment; a World War II Victory Medal; a Combat Infantryman Badge (First Award); an Honorable Service Lapel Button, World War II; and a Sharpshooter Badge and Rifle Bar.
An estimated 80 percent of Army personnel discharge records between Nov. 1, 1912 to Jan. 1, 1960 were destroyed in 1973. There's a 75 percent loss to records of U.S. Air Force personnel discharged between Sept. 25, 1947 and Jan. 1, 1964, with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.
While no duplicate copies were maintained, the National Personnel Records Center uses alternate sources to reconstruct basic service information when requested.