Jonathan West one of the first African-Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. His wife of 47 years, Marjorie, says he witnessed the worst of World War II.
"Some of the stories he told me were so heart-wrenching, so gut-wrenching that -- well, I'm so proud of him, I'm so intensely proud of him," said West.
Now, West knows his country is proud of him too. The 91-year-old was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at his retirement home in Bend on Thursday.
His honor is one of the medals awarded to the Montford Point Marines, which West was a part of. In 1942, West and his platoon buddies started boot camp; basic training was at a segregated camp in North Carolina.
"He never hated, he never got mad about it," West said. "He accepted it, and just went on with his life and tried to make changes as he could."
In late June, President Obama honored the Montford Point Marines with the medal, which is the nation's highest civilian honor. Of the 430 still living, only about 370 of the Montford Point Marines could make it to the ceremony in Washington, D.C..
"That medal is for all of those men, all of those men, who are unsung heroes most of them," said West.
West suffers from Alzheimer's, so he may not know why so many people wanted to shake his hand and take pictures with him Thursday morning.
Many of his family members, including his proud great granddaughters, were there to support him.
"I'm glad for the grandchildren to be able to see what perseverance and personal honor is, what it really is," West.
West and his fellow Montford Point Marines join an elite group of Congressional Gold Medal recipients that include George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers.