Veteran finally receives his medals, years after death

Catherine Tauer receives her late husband Gerald's medals
Catherine Tauer receives her late husband Gerald's Bronze Star and Purple Heart from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Thursday.
George Dornbach | MPR News

Some 73 years after he died in combat, Staff Sgt. Gerald Jacobsen of Little Canada has received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart due him.

His widow, 94-year-old Catherine Tauer, received them at a ceremony Thursday in St. Paul at the Veterans Service building. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar presented the medals.

Jacobsen was killed in combat in France shortly after D-Day. His body was not identified and he was buried in an unmarked grave.

But family members learned last year of a recently declassified file that pointed to where Jacobsen may have been buried.

The family prodded the Defense Department to exhume the remains. A DNA test identified Jacobsen.

Tauer had married him before he shipped out for Europe.

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"I feel blessed that we got him home," she said. "I think with all the help I got and everything, that was great. I never thought I was going to see this. Never."

Brad Jacobsen said the Department of Defense was slow to identify his uncle's remains.

"There were many bureaucratic steps that had to be followed before the body was exhumed," he said. "And months again before the DNA was tested."

Klobuchar said the military needs to do a better job finding and identifying some 83,000 service members missing since World War II.

She said the Department of Defense agency charged with identifying missing military members is being undermined by weak leadership and poor organization. There's strong support in both houses of Congress to reform the agency, Klobuchar said.

"We owe it to these brave men and women and their families to ensure that their remains are identified as quickly as possible," she said.