He Was a WWII Hero From Grand Rapids and Finally Got His Wings, Twice
We West Michiganders just lost a most wonderful man, World War II veteran, Virgil Westdale. He passed away at 104. He was such a gentleman, who I had the pleasure of meeting. He was a gracious, welcoming and warm man with stories to tell.
Fox17 reported on Westdale's passing. Virgil was in the army, and played a pivotal role in liberating prisoners from the Dachau Concentration Complex in Germany. He was was part of the most decorated battalion in military history, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. And, he was in the Army Air Corp.
The Army Air Corp turned out to be a problem with the military because Virgil was a Japanese-American, and with feelings running high as the war continued to rage against the Japanese, the Army sadly stripped Virgil Westdale of his wings in the Air Corp and demoted to a Private in the Army. A very sad time in American World War II history.
But Virgil always stayed positive and upbeat as the years wore on.
He had come come home to West Michigan and Grand Rapids, and became close friends with Steve Kenyon after a chance meeting at a McDonalds, no less. They continued their friendship and stayed close for over 15 years.
It took decades, but Virgil finally was finally recognized and rewarded for his service, and he had his beloved wings returned. On his 100th birthday in 2018, Kenyon organized a repining ceremony and Westdale got his wings back.
As Virgil Westdale passed away just days ago, he got another pair of wings.
LOOK: Food history from the year you were born