The preschooler fidgeted again and then exited with his mother to wait in the car in the parking lot.
Owens couldn't leave. He had waited 47 years to receive the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal with his peers; this was his moment.
``This means a lot to me because no one really gave a damn about the Korean War. It was so close to the end of World War II and no one really knew about it,'' said Owens, who suffered extensive shrapnel wounds while he was a corporal in Company I of the 17th Infantry regiment.
Owens was among more than 30 veterans at VFW Post 4463 who were awarded the medal yesterday. The previous day, another group of 30 veterans were awarded the medal at the American Legion Post No. 17 in Collingswood.
Until last September, veterans who received valor awards for fighting in wars after World War II were deemed ineligible. Owens, of Gloucester Township, had been awarded Purple Hearts for shrapnel wounds in his head and both legs and arms during combat near the Huch Chon Reservoir in 1951. He had also received the combat infantry badge.
But the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal is important because it reminds younger generations who have lived during peacetimes of those who made sacrifices to preserve our freedoms, said Camden County Clerk James Beach, during yesterday's ceremony. ``They [the veterans] are great American heroes and they all have a story that we need to hear. . . . As you look around at your dad, your uncle, your grandfather . . . make sure you ask them what it is they did,'' Beach said.
Medics also were excluded - until now - from the Distinguished Service Medal, as were prisoners of war.
Since the state legislature changed the criteria, thousands of veterans have been lining up to receive the coveted award.
``The medal goes back to 1851, but we never recognized a lot of people we should have. . . . So we went up to Trenton to press our case,'' said Lt. Col. John Rawley, who lobbied for the change.
Michael Burgo, an Oaklyn man, also was pinned with a medal yesterday. Burgo, who was a private, was taken prisoner in Tunisia, when his armored division was captured at Kasserine Pass. Burgo was imprisoned 2 1/2 years and was forced to work in a munitions factory, said his wife, Nancy.
The change came too late for Frank E. Waizeneger, a former aerial gunner and sergeant who had served in Normandy in World War II but was ineligible for other reasons. ``It's so sad. He should have gotten this when he was alive,'' said his wife, Margaret, of Haddon Heights. Waizeneger died two years ago.
``He was 82 and he was reliving his past,'' she said. ``It would have been good for him to receive this in front of his son.''