Published: Apr 13, 2010 5:26 AM EDT

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - A 90 year old Port Charlotte woman received the honor of a lifetime Monday night - a special induction into the Vietnam Veterans of America. Even better, the whole thing was a surprise!

A few months ago, a group of Charlotte County veterans formed the Vietnam Veterans of America Gulfcoast Chapter 1037. 3 weeks ago, a woman showed up at one of their meetings wanting to join. “She stood up and said my name is Marie Knasiak and I am 90 years old and a Vietnam veteran, and I go whoa!” said VVA President Ray Smith.

They went on to find this feisty Polish woman was the oldest living female veteran and a decorated retired Lt. Col who had once dodged and fought sniper fire in the TET offensive. They knew she deserved something special. “She's gonna be totally surprised. She has no idea this is happening. None whatsoever,” Smith said before the ceremony.

The chapter was presented its official charter, elected officers, then Marie Knasiak was brought onstage. One after another, Marie was presented with a vest, pins, certificates, flowers...an honor she never could have dreamed of, especially when she first returned home from war. “As we came off that boat, and being piled into taxis, 6 and 8 into a taxi, no respect given to us,” Knasiak said. “It was very difficult.”

Monday night, she had the respect of the entire room. “This has been glorious, unexpected and I do appreciate the tremendous applause you have given,” Knasiak said.

Marie is now the oldest female veteran to join the Vietnam Veterans of America.