A central Indiana family had a front row seat to history this week. Their loved one served in the Korean War and his unit received the Congressional Gold Medal some 60 years later.
The McCostlin family is reflecting on that emotional moment that honored a hero.
Their cell phone video captures the pomp and circumstance in the nation’s capital as the 65th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War receives the Congressional Gold Medal.
Brigadier General Walter McCostlin served as part of that unit stationed in Korea.
“One or two words will bring a tear to your eye; it's a hell of a unit,” he said.
In 1950, Walter ran away from home in Alabama at just 15 years old.
He withheld his real age, determined to serve our country.
“I had a group of guys that we went to school together and they were going to go, however they chickened out when we went to the bus and that bus ride was the most lonely time I had,” he said.
He never looked back.
Less than a year later, he would be wounded by shrapnel in an attack.
McCostlin received the Purple Heart and later chose to re-enlist.
“I remember the good parts – there were a lot of them – I erase the bad parts, otherwise you don't survive,” he said.
The 81 year old now lives near Chicago.
His son Matt and granddaughters Amber and Kylie made the trip from Westfield to surprise him at this week's ceremony.
“I wasn't going to go and then something hit me where I think the girls should go and witness history, so on a whim I decided to hop in the car and drive,” son Matt said.
They drove 9 hours for a ceremony that would last one hour – memories that will last a lifetime.
“I think by the end I was ready to pull her hair out, but it was fun,” granddaughter Amber said.
And surprise Walter they did.
“A total shock and I wanted to run,” he and the family laughed.
A bit overwhelmed, yet humbled by the attention, Walter joined in for the big moment as his family watched.
He served 37 years in the military.
While in D.C., his granddaughters kept up with school thanks to their online classes at Indiana Connections Academy; but they'll tell you being with him this week – in that moment – is the best lesson of them all.
“I was so proud of him and I really emotional afterwards,” granddaughter Amber said.
“Just seeing grandpa like that, it was amazing because he is part of history and that's my favorite subject and I was very proud and loved it,” granddaughter Kylie said.