LARNED — Sixty-five years.
That's how long Kenny Eye of Larned waited to get his medals and other decorations due him for his honorable service in World War II. The situation, really no one's fault, was remedied this week in Larned, with 150 or more relatives and friends on hand.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, made a special trip to Larned to present the medals and ribbons to Eye. He said he was "not here to talk about politics," but to pay tribute to the men and women who served our country.
When he said he was in Larned particularly to honor one veteran, and that was Kenny Eye, it was apparent from the expression on Eye's face that he was completely surprised.
Eye said he was dumbfounded, and said while accepting the honor and the medals, "I am without words.... Thank you."
"We're here to recognize the value of his service to his country," Moran said. He noted that Eye is "not a rock star or a professional athlete. These are entertainers. He is, instead, a hero."
Afton Linderer, Eye's granddaughter, said that about 2 1/2 years ago, she heard a speaker whose father was one of the men who raised the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima. Hearing this made her think of her grandfather, and how much she knew, or didn't know, of his part in World War II.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec. 7, 1941, Kenny Eye and his brother Vincent enlisted in the Navy. In January 1942 they went to Kansas City, then to Chicago. For a long time, they were in the same Naval Air Transport Squadron, Linderer said, but were finally separated. Kenny was honorably discharged Dec. 4, 1945. Vincent was discharged some time before that.
Kenny Eye was in a hurry to get home to western Kansas, so he did not hang around long enough to get his medals. But now, at age 88, he decided he would like to have them. So, son Tracy, Eye's granddaughters, and Jerry Moran and his staff were enlisted in the cause.
Eye was an aviation mechanic F-first class. But he was trained and authorized to fly the planes if the need arose. He flew large planes in the South Pacific, Linderer said. In fact, on Aug. 25, 1944, 66 years ago Wednesday, his log book showed a record of a safe flight in that area.
Tracy Eye, Kenny Eye's son, said he asked his dad about his ribbons, patches, medals. He said he "didn't stick around for that. He was ready to come home."
The medals awarded this week included a World War II Victory Medal, one for his participation in the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, an American Campaign medal, and a Good Conduct medal.
Kenny Eye's wife, Wanda, was present, along with his sisters Maxine Cramer and Peggy Fegter, and other relatives and friends. Vincent is deceased.
Moran noted that several American Legion Riders were present, as well as VFW and American Legion members and other veterans.
"We should honor them every day of our lives," he said.