SKOKIE, Ill. — When Skokie resident Milton Kaplan served in the Army during World War II, he was one of the soldiers who would sneak into enemy territory and then report back to his commanders what he saw.

During a recent special presentation at Skokie Village Hall, Kaplan, 91, was finally awarded the Army medals he earned when he put his life at risk more than 70 years ago.

“Things move slowly,” he said before the presentation.

Army officers presented Kaplan with a Bronze Star Medal and a Combat Infantryman Badge, as well as a shadow box containing the Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with a Germany clasp and a Honorable Service lapel button.

“Sir, it is a great pleasure for me to be able to pin this on you today,” Army Col. Christopher Drew told Kaplan. “I am humbled to be able to be part of this.”

Kaplan’s daughter, Judy Weinger-Kaplan, recently embarked on an informal campaign to get her father his service medals, enlisting the help of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Milton Kaplan had not been denied his rightful medals intentionally, officials said. Rather, they appear to have slipped through the logistical cracks at the end of the war, as thousands upon thousands of servicemen and women returned from overseas duties.

“When these are brought to the Army’s attention, certainly the Army’s like, ‘Let’s get that taken care of,’” Drew said. “Certainly, it was not deliberate. We don’t like the fact there’s the delay, and we want to take care of it as soon as we can.”

Kaplan was born on Chicago’s West Side but was sent to an orphanage at age 5 when his father died. He stayed there until he joined the Army and, upon returning to the Chicago area after the war, went to college on the GI Bill and became an accountant in Skokie.

“I see nothing special I did,” he said of his service. “We were given a job to do. We did the job to the best of our ability.

“I was fortunate in that I got a chance to go to college, which I probably never would have had,” he added.

Kaplan may not think his service was a big deal, but Army brass would beg to differ. Military officials said the Bronze Star, for “meritorious achievement in active ground combat against the enemy,” was from when his battalion saw 270 straight days of combat operations in central Europe, when thousands of men from his battalion were killed, wounded or went missing in action.

Kaplan’s twin grandsons, Joey and Ben Weinger, 16, beamed with pride at their grandfather’s accomplishments.

“He’s so selfless,” Joey Weinger said. “He didn’t have much of a family, but he goes to protect his nation when he was so young.”

©2015 Chicago Tribune

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