East Texan who was injured in battle for Iwo Jima to receive medals 69 years later

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Nearly 70 years ago, Lufkin resident Ben Weber was shot during the World War II battle for Iwo Jima - once in the eye, and another time in the leg.

While most of his records, including any record of his injuries, burned up in a fire, Weber said he is proud that on Sunday, he will finally receive five of his awards at the age of 90.

Weber said he has no problem with his awards arriving so late. He's just glad they have finally arrived.

It was a hard decision for Weber to enter the war.

"Everybody at age 18 or 17 they were all gone," Weber said. "They had already gone into the service and they went to Africa, and I said, 'Well, I need to do something."

Born and raised in New York City, the now-90-year-old joined the Army when he was 18. He signed up on Long Island.

"They called me, and they said, 'We need you to get on the truck; you're going down to the train,' and I said 'thank God, for this,'" Weber said. "'I'm going to get out of here.'"

Weber jumped on the train and traveled down to Texas, where he worked in the military police. He transported prisoners all over the country.

"We would go back to Staten Island - that's where we were stationed - then we'd go out again. And we even took prisoners from Canada and brought them down here, cause they couldn't handle them."

Weber transported German prisoners to a camp between Trinity and Huntsville and eventually helped install a new camp off Raguet Street in Lufkin.

That's when he got the call that they wanted him in medicine.

"They came to me and said, 'We want to send you to school,' and I said 'Why? You don't like what I'm doing?'" Weber said.

Weber went to Atlanta, Georgia, where he learned how to work as a surgery medic.

Then the Army decided to move him again.

"When I got to St. Louis to go overseas, they said, 'We see where you handled the gun,' and I said, 'Yes, I did,' and they said, 'We'll we're going to ask you to handle another one.' And I said, 'We'll I'm a medic.'"

Weber said he was sent to Iwo Jima and was handling a small group of men when things went wrong.

"When I started off they dropped some anti-personnel stuff," Weber said. "They weren't very far away from us and when they did, I had moments that I thought I was blind totally. I got hit here and then in the leg."

He said the experience was traumatizing.

"It wasn't a nice place to be," Weber said. "They still were fighting, and I was right down below Suribachi, and that's where we raised the flag. And I lost two guys behind me, and I'm not proud of that either."

However, Weber is proud of the awards he will finally get this Sunday.

"I'm proud of it all of it in my own heart," Weber said. "Some people may not care, but I do."

The 90-year-old still works. He has a courier service with First Bank and Trust and says he's glad for his time in the service.

"I'm proud of everything that I've done," Weber said. "I made no bones about nothing."

U.S. Representative Louis Gohmert will present the overdue medals to Weber on Sunday at the Southside Baptist Church off of Tulane Drive at 10 a.m.

If you have a survivors story to share or know of someone who has overcome a life challenge, send an email to m-reed@ktre.com

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