Widow of veteran receives WWII medals 73 years after loss

bronze star army

New Jersey Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Christopher Donohue receives the Bronze Star Medal at Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J., Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

ROSEVILLE, Minn. — The remains of a Minnesota veteran have been found and identified more than 70 years after he went missing during World War II.

Army Staff Sgt. Gerald “Jerry” Jacobsen’s remains were found and identified last month. His widow, Catherine Tauer, was presented with his Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals Thursday.

“He worked for these medals. He gave up his life for them,” the 94-year-old widow said after the ceremony.

Roberta Russo, an amateur historian from Illinois, helped identify Jacobsen while researching WWII records. She saw four numbers stitched on the underwear of an unidentified U.S. solider buried in France and was able to link those numbers to Jacobsen.

The Defense Department exhumed the grave, and a lab in Nebraska used DNA from Jacobsen’s brother, Lester Jacobsen, to confirm the identity of the remains.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar also helped in the effort to identify Jacobsen’s remains and said she wants the lengthy process expedited for other families. Klobuchar sent a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requesting a permanent director be appointed to the agency to handle identifications.

Even after all the years of waiting, Tauer has kept a ring from Jacobsen, a picture of him by her bedside and dozens of letters he sent her.

“I’m sure he loved me with all his heart because of them letters,” Tauer said. “He was so nice. I’m 94 and I never met another man as nice as he was. He was very much in love with me.”

Jacobsen will be buried with full military honors at Fort Snelling on June 15.

“I’m just so happy to have him home,” Tauer said. “It seems like a lift because you wonder and you wonder and you wonder where he is. . It’s just a relief to think that I can go out to Fort Snelling and see him.”

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