PANAMA CITY-- Governor Rick Scott wrapped up a week-long tour of the state Thursday in Panama City, honoring current and past members of the Armed Forces.
Scott presented the Governor's Veterans Service Award Medal to nearly 200 men and women Thursday at the National Guard Armory on Lisenby Avenue. Scott said, "It''s just fun to talk to them and thank them and see how much they appreciate it."
In the sea of covers at Thursday's ceremony, sat one man whose smile couldn't be missed. Earnest G. Wagner is no stranger to medals.
While serving as a U.S. Army Sniper in the Philippines during World War II, Sgt. Wagner used a bazooka to save his entire platoon. He took out an enemy machine gun nest and 19 japanese soldiers, earning the distinguished service cross.
He keeps it along with 2 Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with Valor and several other medals in a brown box, tucked deep inside his closet. Wagner jokes, "The only time I get it out is when someone wants to see it."
Unlike many of veterans at Thursday's ceremony, it took 66 years for Wagner to receive his medals.
He was wounded in combat and flown back to the U.S. just as the war ended. The military lost the paperwork for his medals.
In 2010, a family member searched a VA website and discovered Wagner was entitled to all those decorations. "I say, 'Well I gotta seek my medals now.' So I went to work and they sent me all these medals," Wagner recalls.
Like many veterans, Wagner doesn't consider himself to be a hero. He plans to put the Governor's Service Award in the closet with the others.