It was World War II and U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Cornelius Reagan, shot down over the Indonesia jungle, lived for six months on his wits, tropical fruit and the flesh of raw animals.
Then Japanese forces found him and locked him away in a series of internment camps for more than three years.
Monday, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Miami honored that sacrifice by awarding Reagan, now 95, the Prisoner of War Medal -- 65 years after Reagan was released by the Japanese weighing just 92 pounds.
``I thought to myself, if I can just survive, I'll be able to get home,'' a beaming Reagan said at the ceremony, as he stood proudly with his new medal pinned to the lapel of his gray suit.
To gentle laughter, Reagan said he has been recognized before, with a presidential citation and a Purple Heart for being killed in action. Because he was missing so long, the military had presumed Reagan was dead -- and told his mother that during the war.
``We're here to set the record straight,'' Japhet Rivera, the VA's associate director, said Monday. ``After so many years, he's here to receive the medal he earned.''
The medal is awarded to anyone who, while serving with the U.S. Armed Forces, was taken prisoner and held captive after April 5, 1917.
``The service member must also have either been engaged in action against an enemy or involved in military operations involving conflict with an opposing force,'' the Miami VA said in a statement.
Reagan, an only child who was born in Lexington, Ky., joined the Army Air Corps cadets in 1940, after college at the University of Kentucky.
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