Honor, 64 Years Overdue

7/4/2008 Fresno, CA Harrel was part of the 82nd airborne division. His jumps into Normandy, Holland and Sicily during combat in World War Two earned him three bronze stars.

Several months after Normandy, Harrel fought in the Battle of the Bulge where he faced two enemies, the Nazi's and zero degree temperatures. "If you get your feet wet and you don't change socks you get frostbite."

The humble Oklahoma native, who now calls Squaw Valley home, doesn't consider himself a war hero but his medals and commendations speak for themselves. "Honey, all I did was try to get ready for an enemy force that would come against us."

Fast forward 64 years. Harrel had no idea, but he had earned a fourth bronze star during the invasion of Normandy. He finally got it last Sunday. "I'm proud of what I did. I thank God that he took me through it but I saw a lot of people die. More than anything else I went out the door of the plane that night, we had to fight to survive."

Harrel says he was 21 years old and scared to death. "You was just doing things automatically that was taught to you, to start looking for any snipers or anybody that had machine gun fire. They were all around us."

The octogenarian already has a new home for his bronze star. "That's going to my great-grandson."

Appropriately enough, his great-grandson Wyatt was born on the fourth of July. Both will celebrate his eightieth birthday and the fourth bronze star. "I just feel honored that I was there and part of it because someone had to go."

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