MICHIGAN — World War II veteran and West Michigander Virgil Westdale has passed away at 104.
During his time in the army, Westdale played a pivotal role in liberating prisoners in Germany, but was stripped of his wings for being Japanese-American and demoted to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Throughout the trials and challenges though, his friends say he was always positive.
Steve Kenyon met Westdale by accident 15 years ago at a local McDonald's.
They became close friends, with Kenyon even considering Westdale as an adoptive uncle.
Kenyon, an army veteran and passionate historian of Westdale’s regiment, loved spending time together with him.
Westdale played a key role in liberating people from Dachau Concentration Complex.
After returning from 12 months of combat duty, this hero got the justice he deserved many decades later.
On his 100th birthday in 2018, Kenyon organized a repining ceremony and Westdale got his wings back.
READ MORE: “I was absolutely overwhelmed:” WWII veteran gets his wings back
He says his friend did so much for our country, and it was his way to pay his respects to the man he admired.
"His whole life just strong, very positive, hardworking, inquisitive. And, you know, so proud, very, very humble, but proud of his service," Kenyon told FOX 17.
Kenyon says he’s now working on setting up a scholarship in Westdale’s honor so his legacy can carry on for others who want to pursue their passion for aviation.
So far, memorial arrangements for Westdale have not been announced.