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A World War II veteran received the Congressional Gold Medal on Friday, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress.

As part of its Veteran’s Day celebration, Able Seaman Joseph Kolis Sr. was presented the medal during a ceremony held at The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman.

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, left, presents the Congressional Gold Medal to WWII U.S. Merchant Marines veteran Joseph Kolis, 99, during a ceremony at The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman Friday, Nov. 10, 2023.

Kolis, a lifelong Springfield resident, began his military service as a Merchant Marine in November 1943. He took part in dozens of voyages delivering troops and supplies in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific theaters.

More:Here’s what to know about Springfield’s Veterans Day events and what’s open or closed

According to the National War Museum, more than 243,000 mariners served in the war, but they were not recognized as veterans until 1988 − finally allowing them to receive full GI Bill benefits. It wasn’t until March 2020 that mariners like Kolis could receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

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