BOUNTIFUL -- Retired U.S. Army Air Corps Tech. Sgt. James C. Lamph proudly displays the medals he recently received for his service during World War II.
Lamph, 91, said that during his 21 years of military service he never received the 11 medals, which are now displayed in a shadow box with other military memorabilia, along with a black and white photo taken of him in 1943.
Lamph knows he is one of the few WWII veterans still alive. According to the Veterans' Affairs website, there are about 1.7 million WWII vets alive in the United States. More than 16 million men and women served in the military during WWII.
With Memorial Day approaching, Lamph said he hopes Utahns will remember, "That so many men died and were injured protecting our rights and freedoms. You can't comprehend what the men went through."
His children, whom he calls his "two kings and four queens," encouraged him to find his records.
About two years ago, he began searching for copies of his records. He honestly thought he would not be able to find any copies because of a fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis that destroyed his file along with 1.5 million other files.
But with time, patience and a little help from James Warburton, of Clinton, Lamph learned the Air Force had a copy of his military career files.
That's when the fun began, said Lamph, who enlisted in the Army on Jan. 10, 1940, when he was 18, shortly after his mother died. His father had died when he was just 14 years old.
His ambition in 1940 was to become an aircraft mechanic, but shortly after he enlisted, Lamph received orders for kitchen detail and learned the fine art of baking 4,000 loaves of bread each day for the soldiers.
Later on, his duties changed and he became a parachute rigger.
At first the job was difficult for Lamph.
"It was a bad job," Lamph said. "I couldn't get everything right, and when tested, the parachutes didn't work."
Time and practice changed that, Lamph said.
Lamph ended up in locales such as Africa, England, Italy and Japan during the war.
He saw his share of explosions and at first was frightened by them, but then decided to think of the explosions positively so he wouldn't be afraid.
He pointed to a stack of photographs he took of his flower garden.
"I imagined each explosion as a flower blooming, and I overcame my fear," said Lamph, an avid gardener.
Lamph, who keeps the shadow box displayed in his living room, said the medals represent to him "that I was a good soldier, and I did my job right."