LORAIN — As World War II was winding down, about 30,000 Americans were killed or wounded in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest fought in 50 square miles of woods spanning Belgium and Germany.

Donald Zeh, 87, reacts to seeing a display with replacements for his Army medals, which were stolen from his home last year. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

Donald Zeh, 87, an Army corporal, can still remember the moment when a German bullet pierced his helmet and wounded him.

But the Purple Heart he received after that injury and other war medals were long gone because a burglar entered his home last year and took them.

But on Thursday, replacement medals were awarded to Zeh in a ceremony at DeLuca’s Place in the Park thanks to the efforts of Brian Lilly of Joe Firment Chevrolet, who spearheaded an effort to honor him.

Zeh, a patient at New Life Hospice, saluted again and again as his service to the country was remembered by members of the Lorain Rotary Club and other guests.

“I love everybody,” Zeh said, his voice breaking with emotion. “This is a real occasion for me, and I want to thank you all for being here.”

Upon hearing he would receive his medals back, Lilly said Zeh expressed a desire to meet President Barack Obama.

While that wasn’t possible, Zeh received an autographed photograph of the president, and Lilly said “the rumor is at a later date a handwritten note from President Obama may be coming.”

Dignitaries at Thursday’s ceremony included U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, who said she was looking forward to seeing Zeh next month when he visits the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.

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