HOBOKEN — Isaac Aldridge thought he was through earning medals for his time in the Navy after he left the service in 1953. He was mistaken.
Representatives from American Legion Southeast Georgia delivered a medal in a ceremony at his home Friday, one he never expected.
Dennis Norris, the American Legion’s district commander, said it was his honor of presenting the medal, which his organization made happen with the help of the Korean embassy.
“This is a medal given to volunteers who served during the Korean War,” Norris said.
The recognition happened thanks to officials from Heartland Hospice, an organization currently providing care for Aldridge that contacted the American Legion.
The former sailor served four years in the Navy, with much of his time aboard the battleship USS Iowa, where he was a fire control officer. His job was to give the coordinates to enable the big guns on the battleship to accurately lob projectiles at targets as far as 33 miles away.
The battleship successfully targeted North Korean supply lines, industrial complexes, rail and transportation centers and a major ammunition dump during the war.
“I’m proud to see you served aboard the Iowa,” Norris said.
Aldridge said he enlisted in the Navy for four years, rather than risk being drafted in the Army.
“I just wanted to do my time,” he said.
He was also presented copies of the medals he earned during his service, including the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Medal and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
“Most everyone who serves in the military is a hero,” said Bennie Willams, commander of the American Legion post in Brunswick.
Aldridge was surrounded by family members during the ceremony, including his wife Lenore, siblings, children, well wishers and the contingent of American Legion members on hand to present the award.
Lenore Aldridge said her husband’s health problems prevented him from expressing his full appreciation for the honor, but she knows him well enough to understand how excited he was.
“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “He’s feeling it in his heart. It means a lot to him.”
Isaac Aldridge said he took advantage of the GI Bill when he left the Navy and had a long career in the insurance business, including 20 years at Farm Bureau Insurance.
He said the attention showered on him during Friday’s ceremony was an unexpected surprise.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “I don’t deserve it, but I appreciate it.”