BRAINERD -- A veteran in Brainerd was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday.

US Army Retired Two-Star General Gerald Lang presented the medal to 101-year-old Walter Bernard Straka at Edgewood Brainerd Senior Living.

Straka enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 1936 at the age of 16 and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941.

During World War Two, Straka served with the 194th tank battalion and is the last remaining Minnesotan to survive the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. He was then held as a Japanese prisoner of war for three and a half years before being liberated in 1945.

After returning to Brainerd, Straka married and raised seven children.

Photo courtesy of Brad Veenstra
Photo courtesy of Freedom Flight

The Congressional Gold Medal has been a way to honor military members since the American Revolution and was later extended to non-military groups and individuals.

Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it is the highest award that can be given to civilians.

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