GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- A World War II veteran from Hudsonville returned from Washington DC Thursday after being given a medal that is the highest civilian honor in the nation.
Al Johnson, 94, of Hundsonville traveled to the nation's capital to be alongside other surviving members of the Office of Strategic Services to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
“It’s an honor past due," said Johnson. "I don’t have the words to say.”
Johnson was welcomed home by the Patriot Guard at Ford International Airport.
“I almost broke down in tears," said Johnson. “I appreciate the welcoming home, I didn’t know I had so many friends.”
Johnson was drafted into the war at 19 years old, trained as a nurse, but said the moment he read a flier about the OSS, he changed paths immediately.
He served in the Office of Strategic Services from 1943 to 1945, which is the predecessor to both special forces and the CIA. Johnson said the recognition was decades in the making.
"The organization was secret," said Johnson. "No one knew anything about it so they couldn’t honor it any way because they didn’t know what to honor. But now it’s been brought up and made public.”
There were other OSS members in attendance, but none Johnson knew before the trip.
“There’s only a hundred of us left and only 23 showed up," said Johnson.
Johnson said receiving the medal is a moment he will cherish forever, and when asked if he would do it all over again, there was no hesitation: “Absolutely, absolutely, yep.”