FORT CARSON, Colo. — A 107-year-old World War II veteran and Denver resident was honored Tuesday morning at Fort Carson with a Silver Star, one of the nation's highest honors for valor in combat.
Sgt. 1st Class Harold Nelson was drafted into the United States Army on July 14, 1941. At 26, he was one of the oldest trainees.
Nelson served with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division and earned two Purple Hearts during his service.
"I guess the good Lord was looking after me," Nelson said. "I made six amphibious invasions under enemy fire, and there’s nobody lived that long, I don’t believe.”
Nelson was shot three times during World War II. He even had his appendix removed during the war and returned to the battlefield.
"The Silver Star is our Army's second highest award for valor, and 1st Sgt. Nelson more than earned it," said Maj. Gen. Charles D. Costanza, commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division.
During Tuesday's ceremony, Costanza shared Nelson's story of surviving artillery bombardments, grenade explosions, German tank fire and exploding landmines. Nelson was shot three times during World War II.
"He was hit by a piece of shrapnel in his chest," Costanza said. "That didn't stop him. He just pulled that out and kept on fighting."
Costanza described a moment Nelson and fellow soldiers were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire from an abandoned house in Italy.
"So [Nelson] jumped up on abandoned German tank, grabbed a turret machine gun and suppressed the Germans in that house," Costanza said.
On Tuesday morning, Nelson's family members gathered for the ceremony they've waited decades to see.
"It happened, and it’s amazing that it happened while he’s still here with us," said Carolee Soden, Nelson's daughter.
Soden said her father was a good soldier who took care of his men, often relying on the skills he learned while growing up on a farm in Nebraska.
“Nobody knew how to milk a cow but me, so I milked a couple of helmets full of milk and give it to my men," Nelson said. “That was the best drink they had, beyond beer."
Nelson was discharged from the Army in July 1945. He and his wife of nearly 50 years settled in Colorado, where Nelson went on to become a project engineer for the biscuit company Keebler.
Nearly 80 years after his service, Nelson is the latest recipient of the Silver Star.
"I can’t believe it," Nelson said. "I didn’t know I was that important."
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