MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It took more than 40 years, but a veteran finally received an award he earned. It came together Saturday because of a class he teaches at the YMCA in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Ken Johnson teaches a workout class called R.I.P.P.E.D. at the YMCA every Saturday morning.

This Saturday, the end of his class was different – it was Ken’s Birthday, and the YMCA threw him a party after class.

But Marines in dress blues don’t just show up to any old birthday party. Ken is a retired marine.

When he was in boot camp 41 years ago, he was a standout.

marine Marine Corps Veteran Receives Ultimate Birthday Surprise

(credit: CBS)

“For 13 1/2 weeks of thousands of marines who are on recruit depot, there is one person who receives the title series honor man. He was that series honor man in 1977. So it was extremely rare,” said Joe Schmit, who is also a retired marine.

Schmit takes Ken’s class every week. When he found out that Ken had never actually received his certificate, he did some research and was able to bring Ken’s award home.

“I never expected it in the world, I just happened to find the right person who made something happen and here we are today,” Ken said. “I would have never imagined that this would have happened.”

Ken is in shape now, but he broke Marine Corps records in boot camp. He ran three miles in 15 minutes, which was unheard of at that time.

But you ask him about it?

“I did alright. My dad was a military guy, so I came in with a mindset already, but I actually enjoyed boot camp,” he said.

Ken said the event brought together three important parts of his life: his family, his time in the Marines, and his work at the YMCA.

“I am so grateful for this to happen,” Ken said. “It’s just the greatest experience ever.”

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