Active-duty Marines surprise Purple Heart recipient on his 90th birthday

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GLADSTONE, Mo. -- A WWII veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient celebrated a milestone Wednesday night: his 90th birthday. But he never could've expected who would show up.

Harold “Bud” Wilcox was surrounded by his five daughters, son-in-laws and grandkids for a party at his Gladstone, Mo., home. His wife of 65 years, Talhou, was never far from his side.

Wilcox thought all his guests had arrived when he heard a knock on the door.

It was a group of active-duty Marines who wanted to wish him a happy birthday. Moments later, a retired master gunnery sergeant showed up. Then several members of the VFW walked into his home, followed by Gladstone police officers and city officials.

“Where did you guys all come from?” Wilcox asked with a big grin on his face.

“Happy birthday!” they replied.

When it was finally time to cut his cake, Wilcox was surrounded by friends, family and those in awe of his career in the Marines.

He was once a proud Marine Raider who served from 1943-1945, and who has earned two Purple Hearts. He was also instrumental in getting Purple Heart emblems put on license plates for combat-wounded veterans in Missouri.

“He’s a piece of history in the Marine Corps history books,” said Marc Carbonetto, a retired master gunnery sergeant. “What better person to talk to than someone who’s lived it. It’s amazing to be here.”

Wilcox’s daughter, Julie Rupp, added, “He is the epitome of the greatest generation. It’s just time he gets recognized for everything that he’s done.”

It was a milestone they celebrated together around the kitchen table – where Wilcox thanked everyone for coming.

“I could cry,” he said choking back tears. “I think it’s a miracle, I really do, that so many people would come by and say hi to me. I appreciate this more than any of you people will ever know.”