Tibor Rubin kept his promise to join the US Army after American troops freed him from the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria during World War II.
A Hungarian Jew, Rubin immigrated to New York after the war, joined the Army and fought as an infantryman in the Korean War.
In 1951, Chinese troops captured Cpl. Rubin and other US soldiers and he became a prisoner of war for 2 1/2 years.
More than five decades later, after a relentless campaign by grateful comrades and Jewish war veterans, US President George W. Bush on September 23 will give Rubin the Medal of Honor.
"I was only staying alive to get that medal, and now I'm going to enjoy it," said the 76-year-old Rubin, who now lives in Garden Grove, California.
He was nominated four times for the medal, the nation's highest recognition for bravery in battle. But some believe the paperwork was never submitted because a member of his chain of command discriminated against him for being Jewish and born in Hungary.
When he was at the Chinese prisoners' camp known as "Death Valley," Rubin said he would pray in Hebrew for the US soldiers about 40 each day who died in the freezing weather. He also took care of soldiers suffering from dysentery or pneumonia.
Rubin, who goes by the name Ted, called concentration camp good "basic training" for being a POW and applied lifesaving lessons he learned there. For example, Rubin said he would retrieve maggots from the prisoners' latrine and apply them to the infected wounds of his comrades to remove gangrene.
Fellow POW Sgt. Leo Cormier said Rubin gave a lot of GIs the courage to live.
"I once saw him spend the whole night picking lice off a guy who didn't have the strength to lift his head," Cormier told the Army.
"What man would do that? ... But Ted did things for his fellow men that made him a hero in my book."
As a POW, Rubin turned down repeated offers from the Chinese to be returned to his native Hungary.
"I told them I couldn't go back because I was in the US Army and I wouldn't leave my American brothers because they needed me here," Rubin said.
Rubin wouldn't say anything negative about the Army and his long wait for the Medal of Honor. But in affidavits filed in support of Rubin's nomination, fellow soldiers said their sergeant was allegedly a vicious anti-Semite who gave Rubin dangerous assignments in hopes of getting him killed.
In 1988, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States urged Congress to recognize Rubin's efforts. And US Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida introduced a bill in 2001 to force the Pentagon to review the records of Jewish veterans who may have been denied the Medal of Honor because they were Jews.
About 150 records remain under review, said Bob Zweiman, past national commander of the Jewish War Veterans.