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WWII vet, 92, beats COVID-19 after losing 38 pounds, gets medals

A Navy veteran from Maine who served during World War II and the Korean War was given long overdue service medals after overcoming the coronavirus and losing 38 pounds in the process.

Don Staples Sr., 92, a resident at the Maine Veterans' Home in Scarborough spent two months in isolation after he and other members of the facility tested positive. After leaving isolation, Staples encountered another setback, as he broke his hip and ended up in the hospital.

To lift his spirits, his family decided to arrange the appropriate wartime medals would be presented to Staples upon his return, Poland Spring's WMTW reported,

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“It was an honor just to be allowed to serve,” Staples declared as he sat at attention during a pinning ceremony with friends and family via Zoom, according to the station.

His family researched Staples' military record to find the appropriate medals. The veteran was given the World War II American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific, and Victory Medals, as well as the National Defense Service Medal for his time serving in the Korean War.

Before the ceremony, Staples, who has moderate dementia, couldn't fully understand the changes to his world amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Fox 11 Reno.

He was forced to spend his time in isolation separated from his family and surrounded by caretakers who wore full protective gear, including gowns, face masks, and face shields.

He lost 38 pounds during the process, only seeing his family during Skype calls and when window visits were eventually permitted.

According to his family, Seaman First Class Staples served on the USS Chandeleur during World War II, which he joined to serve our country at the age of 17 against the wishes of his father, the station reported.

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The ship's seaplanes took part in sinking a Japanese submarine off Okinawa in 1945. His job was running a 35-foot rearming boat, which helped transport flight and repair crews to and from seaplanes moored nearby, according to Fox 11.

Staples later served in the Korean War from 1951-1952 aboard the USS Salerno Bay, a small aircraft carrier.

The veteran never sought out his medals later in life, as they were a scarce commodity and not routinely presented following World War II. Busy with his own life, they just weren't that important. Although he reflected on his service in later years, his family said, according to the station.

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“When my time aboard the ship came to an end, the captain and officers lined up to salute me as I departed the ship for the last time,” recalled Staples. “That was quite an honor.”