World War II veteran honored on his birthday with special ceremony

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - There was a special ceremony Friday for a 99-year-old World War II and Bronze Star Medal veteran.

Michiana Homes for Heroes presented a hero award to veteran Al Vander Heyden, who was celebrating his birthday.

Vander Heyden was born in Mishawaka and attended Indiana University. He served overseas for about three years.

When he came back, he ran Vander Heyden Travel for about 40 years.

Veterans said they organize ceremonies like this to show their appreciation, as War World II veterans experienced many hardships overseas and have incredible stories to share.

Vander Heyden is not doing well healthwise, which is why Friday's ceremony meant a lot for his family.

"It's great recognition for a World War II veteran. I'm sure there is not many left anymore. Obviously, a bittersweet occasion. ... I really appreciate American Legion and Homes for Heroes for recognizing him. ... I am sure my dad appreciates it as well," son Ray Vander Heyden said.

If you know a veteran who has a birthday coming up and deserves to be honored, you can contact American Legion Riders Post 357.