95-year-old Falls Church WWII vet receives Silver Star after Army awarded medal to wrong soldier

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) -{ } Years after the U.S. Army awarded the coveted Silver Star to the wrong soldier, a 95-year-old Falls Church man was finally rewarded for his actions in World War II on Friday.

A healthy sense of humor and hearty handshake aren’t all retired Lt. Col. Ralph Kuethe can still claim at age 95; he is also patient. After Kuethe led other soldiers during a fierce fight in World War II, outwitting and outlasting enemy forces in France, the Army awarded the Silver Star, but to the wrong soldier.

“I had resigned myself not to do anything about it,” Kuethe said.

Kuethe’s wife, Dorothy, said, “He never talked about it, so it’s just something he kept to himself.”

Then, two years ago, a friend saw online that the Silver Star had been returned; the recipient gave it back. So, Kuethe told the Army his story, and one day a letter arrived in the mail saying the medal would be his.

With his wife of nearly seven decades and two sons by his side, Kuethe was awarded the Silver Star in a ceremony on July 11—70 years after he earned the medal.

“I’m just pleased that it was able to happen before I expire,” Kuethe said. “I’m 95 years old now.”

Senator Mark Warner presided over the ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

“I guess bureaucracy mess-ups aren’t anything new,” Sen. Warner said. “But the fact that this got righted and this 95-year-old American hero got the recognition he deserved is very special.”

Before the ceremony, Kuethe started the day with his daily routine of doing 40 sit-ups. The veteran says he may celebrate the occasion by gardening at his Falls Church home and end the day watching reruns of his beloved “Gunsmoke.”

“I just think it’s an awfully comforting way to come to the end of, of life, really,” Dorothy Kuethe said. “I think it’s wonderful.”