Wearing the same dark brown jacket he wore 68 years ago, a local World War II Army veteran was awarded six medals Thursday afternoon in Rep. Kevin McCarthy's office.
Private First Class Herman Lippert Jr., 89, humbly accepted the medals presented to him by McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. Lippert had a trembling smile on his face. He took the World War II Victory Medal in his hand, ran his fingers across the gold medal and gave thanks for the opportunity.
"I appreciate this because it helps me go back over different situations when I look at each one and it reflects what happens in time of war and you're drafted," Lippert said.
At age 19, Lippert, who was born in Fellows and grew up in Taft, was drafted. The news was shocking because he thought working as a welder, making and sending vessels to war, was his personal part in the effort.
Lippert was outside his apartment and sat down on the front porch when he received the news.
"I read the letter and literally started to cry because I couldn't believe it," he said. He was then sent to Texas for training and soon after he was a combat engineer with the 97th infantry division guiding the infantry though the front lines. Lippert was stationed in France, Germany and Austria.
Once on German grounds, Lippert and his infantry moved across by foot, vulnerable to the cold and snowy temperatures. According to Lippert, many of his comrades suffered from frostbite because they couldn't make a fire in company front lines or else they would be center targets.
Although he was fired upon by German soldiers, he made it through the war without a scratch.
"I prayed to God that if he let me get out of the war safely, I would become a preacher," he said.
After returning home in 1945, Lippert was very busy trying to get his education and get his life back on track. He earned a Bachelor of Sacred Literature in Ohio and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ministry in Indiana. He became a full-time minster for 10 years and Lippert, his wife, Peggy, and three children moved back to Bakersfield.
Receiving six medals decades after he served in WWII was the reason Lippert made contact with McCarthy.
"Mr. Lippert came into our office requesting assistance in which medals he had earned in WWII, medals he had never asked for," McCarthy said. The congressman's staff collected his service information and were actually going to present Lippert with the medals Dec. 24 but he was in the hospital.
"I had told him I could present the medals to him at the hospital but he insisted that I wait until he got stronger and better so having him here today is even more special because he is here with us," McCarthy said.
Admiring her dad's commemoration, Beverly Maloney, 62, Lippert's oldest daughter, was extremely touched and happy that her dad was finally getting his medals after so many years.
"He is my American hero and I am so happy for him to have the recognition that I think he really deserves," Maloney said. "And for Congressman McCarthy to say the medals were presented on behalf of a grateful nation, that was an extremely proud moment for our family and myself because he is our hero."