It's a day that forever changed the lives of thousands, as the attack on Pearl Harbor drew the U.S. into World War II. The veterans and survivors are known as our greatest generation, but they are also dwindling in numbers.
On Sunday, we honor that generation, one WWII veteran finally received his Bronze Star Medal, almost seven decades after his service.
"Oh it was a total surprise. Totally," said Sgt. Uwe Grapengeter. "It's something I never expected."
At 89 years old, Grapengeter was finally honored for what he did 70 years ago, as a teenager, in WWII.
"It was kind of a whirlwind affair because I left the states on Christmas Eve," he recalled.
That night, Grapengeter was only 18 when he joined the U.S. Army.
"We have always admired Dad for that, it was a tough part of his life, we know it, to join the service when you're 18 years old and go over and slog in the mud and the war is a tough thing," said his son, Eric Grapengeter.
But if you talk with Grapengeter about his service, you wouldn't know it.
"He's very very subdued, very humble about it," said his son.
That's why this award of the Bronze Star Medal is especially meaningful. Grapengeter didn't even know he was being presented it at Sunday's ceremony, which included a retirement celebration for Col. Steven Liddy at the Air Force Academy.
It all started to come together after Grapengeter talked about his war service with Col. Liddy at a Coast Guard Auxilary meeting earlier this year in Denver. After the conversation, Col. Liddy dug into the veteran's service records and found accounts of Grapengeter's exemplary performance in active ground combat in Germany.
Liddy believed Grapengeter deserved the honored decoration and the Army agreed and issued the order.
"To continue to honor them this many years later, does help remind us of what history was, how to be vigilant, let's continue to pay attention to what's going on, let's not lose sight of what these guys went through," said Eric Grapengeter.
Even if it is decades later, this Bronze Star shines just as bright as any for Uwe Grapengeter.
"It shows that there was an appreciation for what we did, it's an acknowledgement of that," he said.
Grapengeter served in the U.S. Army during the war in Europe and for a year afterward during the occupation in Germany, from 1944 to 1946. He went on to continue his service for over 30 years, which including time with the Navy.