NEW ORLEANS - On Armed Forces Day, the World War II Museum was a busy place, but the center of attention was 84-year-old Amos Pierce, proud and solemn as he sat on the stage.
His son, actor Wendell Pierce was fought back tears.
"He is so excited and happy," Pierce said of his father, "and I've just been emotional all day."
Army Corporal Amos Pierce served on the island of Saipan during World War II and knew his unit had earned medals, but was astounded and infuriated when a white military clerk, who did not have his records, dismissed his claim.
"We won the citation," Amos Pierce said, "and she said, 'oh yeah, yeah, yeah,' and she didn't believe me."
Amos felt that bitterness for six decades, so angry he ignored a letter from the military about the medals, until Wendell stepped in, and the result was a special ceremony at the World War II museum, with the second in command of the Louisiana National Guard making the presentation.
"For those of us who are serving, we owe a debt of gratitude to the greatest generation," said Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer.
Amos Pierce thought he should have received two medals, the Louisiana National Guard found a third one. But when Wendell Pierce asked me to help his dad get the medals he was due, I contacted Sen. Mary Landrieu's office, and when they had the research started, the military discovered Amos Pierce was to get six medals. Senator Landrieu sent a special video message to the presentation, congratulating Amos Pierce.
"I'm so happy that Bill Capo stopped me one day and said 'senator could you help with this?'" Landrieu said. "You know, I'd like to say that every now and then reporters do do something worth while."
The medals Amos Pierce was awarded included a presidential unit citation, and meritorious unit commendation.
"We would not have won World War II without the African Americans, the Native Americans, the Hispanics, the Japanese Americans," said Nick Mueller, executive director of theWW2 Museum.
"He is very happy, he is very proud," said a beaming Althea Pierce, Amos' wife.
There was an Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal with a Bronze Service Star, a World War II Victory medal. Helping pin on the medals was son Ron Pierce, a Westpoint graduate. He pointed out that his father never let the snub he received affect the way he raised his sons to believe in the possibilities that exist in America.
"He truly believed in the American dream, and he bought into it. And when he would tell us we could do anything, he wasn't just spouting words, he meant it," said retired U.S. Army Major Ron Pierce, who also choked back tears during the ceremony.
There was even a good conduct medal, and an honorable service lapel button.
"It's a great honor to stand here today," Wendell Pierce told the audience. "But it's just not for us. It is for all the men and women who couldn't live to see this honor, and receive the honors that they received, but still have love and faith for this great nation."
To the Pierce family, the chest full of ribbons and medals given to Amos was proof of how this country has changed in 60 years.
"How do I feel today? I feel like General MacArthur," Amos Pierce said with a laugh, and everyone around him joined in."