TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - A local veteran was finally recognized for his distinguished service in World War II. It was a special honor that was decades in the making.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor presented 93-year-old Raymond Chambers with the war medals he had earned but never received for his battle wounds.
He had served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
"During this brutal battle that went on for weeks Mr. Chambers was actually shot in the leg," Castor said. "But he's a tough guy and at that time, when the doctors looked at him, he said he was fine and he kept on fighting. He kept on serving."
He even had a wartime photo that showed a bandage on his leg as he sat on a tank on the coast of Japan. But he assumed he had just hurt himself, not knowing it was actually a war wound.
He was presumed uninjured, but nearly 60 years later, he went to the hospital about a pain in his leg. That's when doctors discovered shrapnel lodged in his limb.
It would be another decade before he'd receive the medals he unknowingly earned, thanks to a long confirmation process with the Department of Defense.
Tears welled in Chambers' eyes as he was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars, the American Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 16 million Americans served in World War II. However, less than 500,000 are still alive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.