FLORENCE, Ala. - Euell Stutts of Florence finally got a Bronze Star pinned to his lapel to recognize his service in Europe as a sergeant in World War II.
Stutts was honored Friday night at a veterans' dinner in Huntsville and got his award pinned on by a two-star general. It was an award he should have received upon his discharge, but some got overlooked because of the high volume of heroes leaving the armed forces.
"They made a big deal out of it," he told the TimesDaily on Saturday.
Stutts' award resulted from a 1947 order stating all service members earning the Combat Infantryman Badge should also receive a Bronze Star for their "heroic or meritorious achievement."
Pointing to his blue and silver Combat Infantryman Badge, Stutts said, "This one means you were fighting nose to nose and toe to toe with the enemy."
The Lexington native was drafted shortly after his high school graduation. He was sent to serve in the 331st regiment of the U.S. Army's 83rd Infantry Division in Europe after only three weeks of training in Florida.
"The Germans had broken through, and they needed men over there," he recalled. "We were put on the train for New Jersey to board the boat to Europe."
Once in Europe, his regiment fought its way through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. They were under fire the entire way and the 331st lost more than 1,000 members.
In one battle, he recalls stepping over the bodies of fallen Americans as he and others fired on a trench filled with German soldiers who had killed the Americans.
"When we got to the trench, all we saw were a bunch of white flags," he said.
Gracie Stutts, his wife of 62 years, said he never talked much about his service until after he went on a Freedom Honor Flight two years ago to see the World War II Memorial in Washington.
"In the past two years, I've heard more about his service than any time before that," she said.
Stutts' memories of the war are still vivid - freezing in the snow with no blanket, wearing uniforms that were too small because that's all they had, and liberating people who were so sick they couldn't move at the Langestein concentration camp.
"I was there for about 18 months, and I was scared for the entire time," he said. "I'm not ashamed to admit that."
Stutts said he was training in Austria for service in the Pacific Theater when he was told he could go home instead.
"People tried to get me to sign up for the reserves, but I just wanted to go home," he said.