DENVER (CBS4)– A 102-year-old World War II veteran receives a special gift thanks to the generosity of a local businessman who wanted to thank the centurion for his service.
Harold Nelson’s roof was damaged in the devastating hail storm that hit the Denver metro area in May.
He called T. Hackbarth Roofing, a local roofing company, for repairs. They were so impressed with Nelson’s service, they offered to do the work for free.
“Quite often the older they get the more forgotten they get… and these guys have made it what we are today as far as liberties and freedoms and that sort of thing,” said Todd Hackbarth, the owner of T. Hackbarth Roofing.
Nelson has lived in his Denver home for nearly 70 years and said he’s thankful to have a brand new roof.
“They’re doing a beautiful job,” Nelson told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “I couldn’t ask for a better company.”
Under Nelson’s new roof are a number of memorabilia from his time with the U.S. Army. One shadow box contains the medals he earned, including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Nelson was drafted in 1941 when he was 26 years old and served with the 3rd Infantry Division during World War II, often under enemy fire.
“This bullet hole here,” Nelson said, pointing to his green pith helmet, “I got that crossing the river. It went over my ear, but never touched my head.”
Nelson told Werthmann about the other bullet holes in his helmet as he described the day he and his fellow servicemen invaded Sicily, Italy.
“We came in on the south side,” he said. “Our landing craft infantry couldn’t let down the planks, so we jumped into the water and we swam ashore under intense machine gun fire and rifle fire. It killed a lot of my men.”
Many of Nelson’s friends did not survive the war, despite his efforts to protect everyone. He even found ways to keep them fed.
“In Italy, I found a cow and milked three helmets full,” he said, still holding his battered war helmet. “I gave my men some milk to drink and they were tickled to death.”
The war was definitely frightening, he admitted, but Nelson is grateful to have survived.
“We lived in the ground for two years,” he said. “Never had a roof over my head.”
Seventy-five years later, Nelson is living under a new roof thanks to a few men and women he fought to protect decades ago.
“I appreciate that,” Nelson said of the T. Hackbarth Roofing’s free service.
Not only did T. Hackbarth Roofing provide free labor, the manufacturer of the roof shingles, gutters and more provided the materials free of cost.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 This Morning over the weekend and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.