COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A local World War II veteran could've been receiving veteran benefits for the past 70 years, but he never signed up with the VA. Now he's finally getting the help he deserves.
Born and raised in Penrose, Sgt. John Sekulich, who is soon-to-be 101 years-old, was drafted right before World War II began.
"We didn't have it as tough as some but we had it worse than a lot of others you know," said Sgt. Sekulich.
The day the Battle of the Bulge started, Sgt. Sekulich and his men were walking into Malmedy, Belgium, not knowing the Germans had just killed 84 American prisoners of war in what went on to be called the Malmedy Massacre.
"We would've all gotten killed by the German SS Troops if it hadn't been for one GI soldier that got away from Malmedy that told us don't go down there, they've killed everybody," Sgt. Sekulich said.
Sgt. Sekulich continued serving until the bitter end of World War II. When it came time to sign up for benefits, he never did.
"Well I'll tell you they were backed up so far in the first place that I figured well there's no use," said Sgt. Sekulich.
It wasn't until he started losing his hearing, sense of smell and taste, he thought he could use some help.
"I thought well this long after the war ended, there's no use of even trying anything," said Sgt. Sekulich.
Thanks to Kurt Heitman at the VA office on Fort Carson, who has gone above and beyond to help this hometown hero out, in a matter of about six weeks the VA determined Sgt. Sekulich is 100 percent disabled due to his hearing loss suffered from the war and he is now receiving his very well-deserved benefits.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought that would happen," said Sgt. Sekulich.
He and his wife Charlotte just picked up his disabled veteran tags for his car which were free of cost. He's getting the treatment he needs for his hearing loss and he's now signed up and eligible to have his property taxes taken care of.
Now there are just a couple more things they really need.
"Maybe we'll be able to afford for him to not have to go out and turn on the hose and stand out there sprinkling, maybe we can get a sprinkling system one day, maybe we can get a fireplace that will warm him up. We want to get a gas insert for the fireplace. We think that would be pretty cool," Charlotte Sekulich said.
Now they want to get the word out in case there are other veterans missing out on what they've earned.
To find out if you or someone you know should getting VA compensation, visit www.va.gov. Look for the benefits tab for what to do next or call 1-800-827-1000.