The family of a now-deceased World War II veteran was presented with the military medals he earned during his service at a ceremony in North Tonawanda on Tuesday.
Norman Blatner of North Tonawanda fought in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest in the fall of 1944. Under intense fire, he was taken prisoner.
A German guard asked Blatner if he was related to a family that ran a delicatessen in Buffalo. The guard's family had apparently visited the city. Blatner informed the guard that his aunt and uncle owned the deli.
He never saw the guard again, but Blatner was soon transferred to a prison farm, which he later said probably saved his life.
Like many World War II veterans, Blatner didn't like to talk about the war. Late in life, he finally shared his experiences with his great granddaughter Sydney Blatner, who was doing a school report.
"It was really shocking because he never opened up to anyone," Sydney said. "He started opening up. It's amazing all the things he went through."
Following his death on Independence Day 2013 at the age of 97, Blatner's family contacted Rep. Brian Higgins' office to obtain the military medals he earned. North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt said Blatner deserves the recognition.
"It's never too late to recognize our veterans," Ortt said. "It's never to late to pay tribute, especially to the World War II veterans who saved the world."
Blatner's family admits Tuesday's ceremony is something he would have shied away from. But the medals will be proudly displayed as they gather to celebrate Christmas, saying this is the best gift they could have received.