Seventy-three years after Army Staff Sgt. Gerald Jacobsen went missing in combat in France during World War II, a general and a U.S. senator stood by his widow’s side Thursday and awarded him the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

The emotional ceremony took place in St. Paul a week before his remains will arrive home in Minnesota.

Catherine Tauer spent decades wondering where Jacobsen was after he was listed as missing in action in July 1944. On Thursday, she held the medals, nestled in cases, in one hand and wiped her eyes with a tissue in the other .

“He worked for these medals. He gave up his life for them,” the 94-year-old widow said quietly after the ceremony. But it’s the return of his remains to Minnesota that she’s eagerly awaiting after an Illinois woman used four digits written on the underwear of an unknown U.S. soldier buried in France to identify him as Jacobsen. DNA confirmed it.

Bringing home those who went missing in action is “who we are as a nation,” said Minnesota National Guard Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash . “We owe it to the families. … Some will always remain missing, but families can still have hope.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar , who pushed for identification of Jacobsen’s remains, wants that lengthy process expedited for other families. In a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, she has requested that a permanent director be appointed to the agency that oversees the identifications. It would be the first step in a broader plan for agency reform, she said.