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Medal of Honor recipient George Wahlen dies


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Salt Lake City -- Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and Utah resident George E. Wahlen died Friday morning after an extended illness.

Wahlen was 84-years-old.

Wahlen earned the Medal of Honor as a Navy Corpsman at the battle of Iwo Jima where he is credited for saving countless lives.

He was injured on three separate occasions but refused to leave the battlefield.

President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to Wahlen in 1945. He later re-enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He retired with the rank of Major.

He then went on to a career with The Department of Veterans affairs where he continued to serve our country and other veterans for 14 years.

In 2004, President George W. Bush signed legislation authorizing the naming of the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City. As federal buildings cannot bear the name of a living person, Congress approved special legislation allowing for an exemption in the case of Wahlen.

Son Brock Wahlen said, "My dad was a quiet, humble man. He didn't want much attention."

"If you were to ask my dad today, if he were here, he would say this is not about him. It's about the veterans who served everywhere, specifically those who did not return, that paid the ultimate sacrifice," said son Blake Wahlen.

Gov. Jon Huntsman released this statement on the passing of George Wahlen: "Our state has lost our humble hero. As our only remaining Medal of Honor recipient, he touched countless lives...

"Mary Kaye and I offer our most sincere condolences to his lovely wife, Melba, and the Wahlen family and thank them for sharing his wonderful life with all of us."

In a press release, the Veteran Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System said, "This modest hero truly exemplified the meaning of patriotism, commitment to service and love of country. The people of Utah, this hospital and the veterans that he tirelessly served have lost a remarkable man."

Wahlen leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Melba, five children, 27 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren.

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