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105-year-old veteran receives Congressional Gold Medal for service in World War II

WHITEHALL, Wisc. (WISH) — A 105-year-old veteran from Wisconsin was recognized for his service during World War II by receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.

Friends, family, and fellow veterans gathered Monday to watch Reynolds Tomter, of Pigeon Falls, Wisc., receive the award.

Tomter was a member of the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II and served as a baker in the galley department, according to a Facebook post by American Merchant Marine Veterans.

Tomter and other mariners risked their lives to provide vital equipment, food, fuel, raw materials, and other supplies to troops stationed overseas.

“The Merchant Marine provided for the successful transport of resources and personnel despite consistent and ongoing exposure to enemy combatants from both the air and the sea, including from enemy bomber squadrons, submarines, and naval mines,” reads the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2020.

The Merchant Marine lost more than 9,000 men during World War II and had a higher per-capita casualty rate than any branch of the U.S. military, with crew members killed at a rate of 1 in 26.

Tomter says he is happy to receive the award.

“Not getting recognized, not until 1988, that hurt a little bit. But hey, payoff, it’s never too late,” Tomter said.

Members of the Merchant Marine were given veteran status in 1988.