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Colorado’s oldest WWII vet finally gets medal he earned 77 years ago

Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza pins U.S Army Veteran Staff Sgt. Harold Nelson, an infantryman and Dogface Soldier, with the Silver Star Medal. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Bernabe Lopez III, 50th Public Affairs Detachment)
October 13, 2022

The man considered to be Colorado’s oldest World War II veteran, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, was finally presented with a Silver Star he earned 77 years ago.

Harold Nelson, a 107-year-old Army veteran, was given the long-awaited medal during a ceremony at Fort Carson last week, the Gazette reported.

“I appreciate what they have done. It’s a wonderful thing,” Nelson said. “I guess it means I did what I was supposed to do.”

Nelson was drafted in 1941 and served in the 3rd Infantry Division for four years. He spent two of those years in a war zone “living in a foxhole, his daughter told the Gazette.

The 3rd Infantry Division logged the most combat days of any unit in WWII’s European theater, according to the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division website.

The two-time Purple Heart recipient was “shot three times, survived artillery bombardments, grenade explosions, German tank fire and exploding landmines,” according to Maj. Gen. Charles D. Costanza, the 3rd Infantry Division’s present commanding general.

The ceremony came nearly eight decades after Nelson’s commanding officer wrote a letter to Nelson’s mother saying he’d been recommended for the military’s third-highest decoration for valor.

However, that plan never came to fruition, and Nelson buried his wartime memories after being discharged in 1945, the Gazette reported. Over time, his thoughts drifted back to that letter, and his family set out to see that he got what he’d earned.

Nelson petitioned the military for a determination on his Silver Star in 2019, but his case was flimsy because a massive fire consumed his records, along with those of many Army personnel, in 1973.

It was a Denver nonprofit, the Forgotten Heroes Campaign, that finally pushed it through to the finish line, the Gazette reported. The moment meant a lot to his daughter, Carolee Soden, who was wiping away tears sitting beside Nelson.

“I have been trying for many, many years to find a way to get this for him,” she said. “I am having trouble realizing it is really happening.”