World War II veteran recognized at National Purple Heart Convention
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Clapping could be heard all around the Ramkota convention hall as Harold Nelson, a World War II veteran, was presented with the Medal of Valor for his bravery on the field.
Nelson who was drafted in 1941, is now 107 years old. He was wounded four times in battle and survived beach landings in Africa and Europe during his time in the war.
“It’s very hard to think about him living like he did. They had one blanket, they had sea rations, and most of the time they had no water. So he would come up a cows footprint, take the water in his helmet and treat it with the tablets, strain it through a cloth and give his men each a swallow of water,” said 73-year-old Carolee Soden, Nelson’s oldest daughter. “They didn’t have a whole lot of food, one time they had a bunch of sheep out in one of the fields and he killed one of the sheep and butchered it, so his men would have something to eat”.
Taking care of his men is something Soden felt encouraged her father to keep fighting during his time deployed.
Nelson also earned the Silver Star, the third-highest military decoration for valor in combat.
“The enemy was shooting at us from an empty house and there was a tank along the side there that had been disabled. I ran across the open, climbed upon the tank, and fired a machine gun into the window and the enemy surrendered but they threw a hand grenade out the window at landed on my bag and I threw the bag off of my back so that it didn’t hurt me,” Nelson recounted. “The good Lord was looking after me!”
The 2-time Purple Heart recipient lost friends on the battlefield but gained new friendships and support back home. Roy Ray, Commander of Chapter 371 Military Order of the Purple Heart, added that along with throwing a birthday party for Nelson, the centurion has been honored at multiple sporting events.
“This past February on his birthday, the 28th, my chapter threw him a birthday bash that was just super, super good and everything has been falling into place since then,” said Ray.
But for Nelson, what he remembers isn’t the food rations, or the fact that he lived in the ground for two years but the men that he served with.
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