A 91-year-old Second World War veteran from central Alberta is thanking a group of students for replacing his medals after they were accidently thrown out years ago.

"I'm proud of them," said Dave Pennington."Really special. They mean everything to me."

Pennington was a 20-year-old farmer's son when he went to Italy with the First Edmonton Regiment as a private.

He earned five medals for his service, including one for the Italy campaign where he was wounded with shrapnel. 

But the medals were accidentally thrown out by his sister-in-law more than 20 years ago.

"The doggone mice got in there and they made a nest and chewed up my ribbons," he said. "So she threw them out."

Pennington told that story to junior high students in the central Alberta village of Veteran, 300 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, last Remembrance Day.

The 18 students were so touched, they petitioned Veteran Affairs in Ottawa to get replacement medals, presenting them to Pennington just before Easter.

"It's important to him which makes it important to us, because he served and almost, like, gave his life," said Emma Nelson, 14.

"It was just exciting, but also exciting that they were going out beyond themselves as teenagers and looking to make somebody else's day better," said principal Debbie Letniak.

When the school invited Pennington to speak again, the students surprised him with the new medals, sent without cost by Veteran Affairs.

"I've seen other guys with their medals on and I often wished I had some," he said.

Veteran Affairs praised the students for taking the initiative to replace Pennington's medals.

"Acts like these are the finest examples of a new generation of Canadians who are making remembrance an active part of their lives," said spokesperson Niklaus Schwenker in a statement.