George Watts has been waiting 70 years for the U.S. Army to issue the medals he earned in a segregated unity during World War II. Watts, 93, now has a powerful ally.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, met with the Buffalo, New York resident on Tuesday to call on the Army to correct the apparent injustice, the Army Times reports.
Schumer said in a statement that the segregated military during that “shameful period” failed to recognize the sacrifice of Black soldiers.
“Unfortunately, despite putting his life on the line for his nation, he never received medals he rightly deserves for his service,” added the senator.
Watts, who served in the Philippines from 1943 to 1946 in a combat engineers unit, said none of the Black soldiers he served with received their decorations, The Times reported.
The medals—the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal—were due upon his separation from the military.
“I’m not blaming anybody,” Watts told public radio station WBFO. “Just that I never knew how to get them. I thought eventually somebody would decide that the man didn’t have his medals and would get ’em for me.”
According to The Times, Watts is the last-known living World War II veteran in Erie County, New York who served in a segregated unit. WBFO said just 4 percent of Americans who served in the war are still alive.