By Mary McGuire

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s newest Purple Heart recipient is finally being honored, decades after serving his country

Wayne Sundberg, 93, served in World War II and qualified to receive the award. But the Army veteran never received it because a fire destroyed his military records.

Two days after Christmas, Wayne finally received the present he deserves.

“It’s more than I had even thought about it being this nice,” Wayne said.

The Milaca native was drafted into the Army in 1942. Two years into his service, his plane was shot down.

“We ran into some real heavy flak from some German tanks, and all of a sudden the airplane was out of control and our radio man said, ‘Come on, let’s go,'” Wayne said.

wayne sundberg and his familu Minnesota WWII Vet Honored With Purple Heart

(credit: CBS)

The Germans took him as a prisoner of war, holding him for about nine months before he was freed. He headed straight back home before ever receiving a Purple Heart.

Wayne’s son, Mark, knew he was entitled to it, but a fire destroyed the official Army records that would provide the proof. So he got to work, looking for other proof of his father’s service.

“I dug around and what I really found wasn’t United States records, it was an old ID card from the Germans,” Mark said.

From there, the family got in touch with Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office.

“This Dec. 27 was a special day for the Sundberg family already,” Klobuchar said. “This would have been Wayne and his wife’s 60th wedding anniversary.”

Mary Sundberg passed away in 2014, but her presence was felt and seen throughout the ceremony.

“It’s so much something that my mom wanted,” Mark said. “It makes me happy that she is looking down on this day and is smiling.”

Once Wayne returned home from war, he worked for more than three decades as a physical education teacher in St. Louis Park. He now calls Minneapolis home.

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