MESA, Ariz. - A Valley veteran gets the surprise of a lifetime: a Purple Heart that he was supposed to get almost two decades ago.
Without the help of two Valley high school students, the medal would have never made it into the hands of Staff Sergeant Jason Wenk.
"I never expected that 17 years later, some people I didn't even know would go through all this work and actually put together a ceremony," said Wenk.
Students working on YouTube series learned about Wenk
Bridget Van Wie and Bella Navarro are two students working on a YouTube series called 'Patriot Plates,' which features the stories of men and woman during their time in the military. To find vets to interview, they drive around the Valley, looking for cars with veteran license plates. That was how they met Wenk, and learned he had been awarded a Purple Heart 17 years ago, but never received the medal after his unit was disbanded.
"They're putting together this video series to tell the stories of individual veterans, which I think is a really great thing they're doing, but aside from that, they had to go out of their way to track down this medal, figure out how to get one," said Wenk. "The one they got me is actually World War II vintage, in the presentation box, and they had it engraved, with my name, rank on the back of it, so they really went above and beyond."
Ceremony organized for Wenk
To commemorate the big honor, a Purple Heart ceremony took place at the Arizona Military Museum on the morning of Aug. 7, where Wenk was joined by local Purple Heart chapters, the Army National Guard, and even those who served along side him in Iraq.
Wenk says he is grateful for this opportunity, and is looking forward to following the YouTube series and hear the stories of of other Valley veterans.
"Everybody's got their own story to tell," said Wenk.
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