East Texas veteran receives medals decades later

Cecil and Mary Cunningham (Source: KTRE Staff)
Cecil and Mary Cunningham (Source: KTRE Staff)

GARRISON, TX (KTRE) - From 1948 to 1968, Cecil Cunningham served in the United States Navy. During his 20-year career, Cunningham was eligible for 20 medals but only received a handful until recently.

His family said after almost half a century, a couple of medals that were past due ended up on their doorstep one day. These medals included a Korean War Medal, six Good Conduct medals, The National Defense Service Medal, The Navy Occupation Service Medal, and The Battle Efficiency Award. Cunningham son Stuart Cunningham, Cunningham's son, said his dad is a selfless hero who has always thought of others before himself.

"He did the application for all the medals for the service men on his ship. A recruiter such as him sometimes won't take the time to put themselves in there when they are doing all the numbers of 355 men," Stuart said.

On Thursday, the United States Navy held a ceremony to recognize this 82-year-old veteran.

"I appreciate it very much," Cecil said.

David Nichols with The United States Navy said Cunningham had a very important job; he was the boiler technician.

"They were responsible for making water, power generation, the electricity, and they were responsible for the steam press, so the laundry could get done," Nichols said.

The veteran worked on five different ships.

"He really loved sailing the south of France, and Morocco," Stuart said.

"He picked up astronauts, he was a part of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he also met Elizabeth Taylor,"  Nichols said.

While on duty, he also met and fell in love with his wife Mary. The two have been married for 55 years and have two sons. They also managed to raise 24 foster kids throughout the years.

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