(FORT CARSON, Colo. ) — Sergeant First Class Harold Nelson made the trip down from his home in Denver to receive a long overdue honor – a Silver Star, the military’s third highest decoration for valor in combat.

It’s a ceremony that comes more than eight decades after his service to our country. For his achievements, the 3rd Infantry Division also inducted Nelson into the Marne Hall of Fame class of 2022. The 3rd Infantry Division’s Marne Hall of Fame recognizes Dogface Soldiers that served and left a lasting impact on the 104-year-old organization.

“It’s really nice, really nice, I hope I deserve it,” Nelson said modestly.

Master General Charles Costanza had the honor of presenting the award to Nelson.

“How many times do you get to pin a Silver Star on a 107-year-old World War Two veteran?” said Costanza. “When you read that history of First Sergeant Nelson, it’s just incredible.”

The ceremony, held at Fort Carson on Tuesday, was 80 years in the making for Nelson. His military records were destroyed in 1973 due to a fire that broke out at the military records storage facility in Kansas City, Missouri. Nelson’s family and friends made it their mission to get him the recognition he deserves.

“Took a long time to get it, but I finally did,” Nelson said. “Six amphibious invasions under enemy fire and still live. That’s unusual.”

Nelson’s account of combat during World War II, and a letter of recommendation from Capt. James Pearman Jr., his then-commander, were used to award Nelson the Silver Star. The award was approved on June 22, 2022, by the Army’s Human Resources Command.

“Lots of people had to give their statements, what they saw him do, but we got it done,” Costanza said of the process that led to Nelson’s Silver Star.

Nelson was shot four times while landing on the beaches of North Africa. After three days of intense battle, his division captured Casablanca, paving the way for the allied liberation. According to Nelson, he had run out of ammunition, ran hundreds of yards under enemy fire, climbed on top of an abandoned German tank and fired a machine gun at the enemy allowing his men to advance. A German soldier saw Nelson and threw a hand grenade at him. The grenade tore Nelson’s backpack apart and while he smelled blood, he continued shooting until the Germans finally surrendered.

“This division, the Third Infantry, is probably one of the most historic,” added Costanza. “It has earned more medals than any other in World War Two. He’s part of that.”

WWII Vet receives Silver Star at Fort Carson
Courtesy: FOX21 Photojournalist Mike Duran

There is no shortage of stories supporting Nelson’s accomplishments, courage and the support he gave his men. That even includes a rather contentious encounter with one of the most famous generals of all – George Patton.

“He balled me out in Africa,” Nelson admitted. “My men were going up to invade Sicily, and Patton says, ‘[Expletive], soldier! Let me see you give these men some orders. They look all pooped out,'” Nelson described the confrontation.

“I had a notion to tell him, they aren’t pooped out, they just ran 20 miles in four hours and you rode in that [expletive] jeep.”

Nelson always went the extra mile for his men. He reflected on one memorable time in Italy.

“I got a helmet full of milk for them one time. Nobody knew how to milk a cow but me,” Nelson said. “I milked a couple of helmets full of milk and gave it to my men. That was the best drink they ever had, beyond beer!”

WWII Vet receives Silver Star at Fort Carson
Courtesy: FOX21 Photojournalist Mike Duran

On this day, an opportunity to raise a glass – or a helmet full of milk – to Nelson. Along with a long overdue salute.

“I lived to come home,” said Nelson. “That’s more than others could say.”

The Silver Star Medal was established on July 9, 1918 by Act of Congress. It is awarded to an individual for gallantry in action against an enemy of the U.S. while engaging in military operations with an opposing foreign force, according to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). The Silver Star Medal is also awarded to those who have served with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force.