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LUCAS COUNTY, OH (Toledo News Now) -
After 46 years, one local veteran's brave actions may finally receive the recognition they deserve.
Joe Palazzolo is a Vietnam vet. His actions during the war were never awarded a Bronze Star or Purple Heart because they were not reported at the time. Now he is at the end of a process to receive late recognition.
"At the time, you don't get scared," Palazzolo said of his experience. "But that night, then you feel it. Like, ‘Oh my god, did that really happen?'"
Palazzolo was only 20 when he was in Vietnam, and said he remembers it as if it were only yesterday. He recalls unknowingly entering the enemy's camp and being attacked. He was shot in the arm, but continued fighting. When an officer was severely injured, Palazzolo carried him to a helicopter.
On his way back to the battleground, Palazzolo came across another wounded officer, and carried him to safety as well. He says he was just doing his job.
"I would have carried anyone, anytime," he said. "And there's all kinds of guys who would have done it for me. And it's not that you really do it to be a hero or anything, you do it because, ‘Hey, this guy is hurt. I'm going to help him out, even if it costs me my life.'"
Palazzolo continued fighting for hours. By the end of the battle, he was injured again by shrapnel from an explosion.
His actions should have earned him a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Vietnam, or when he came home, but Palazzolo said he never got them, and it's taken him years to find the people that could help him get them.
After a reunion in Hawaii, and getting back in contact with his commander, first sergeant, and fellow fighters, Palazzolo was able to get the backing he needed. With the help of Congressman Bob Latta's office, they got to work.
"These are individuals who put their lives on the line in combat, and I want to make sure we do everything possible we can do from our office to help them have those awards given to them," Latta said.
Palazzolo has already received a letter notifying him that he has been awarded the Purple Heart, and now he is waiting to hear the same regarding the Bronze Star.
"I'll be very proud," he said. "I'll be very happy, very proud. It's something I've waited for for 46 years."
He also said he wants all veterans to know they can do the same, even after many years.