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7/25/2013 Decorated WWII veteran to be honored by DAR

WWII veteran, Jack Nichols, is being honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), General Marion Chapter, on July 27. Nicholas has been asked to tell his life story during the event.

Everyone is welcome to attend. It will be held at the Gary Nichols home at 20854 on Highway 96 in Wetmore starting at noon.

Nichols, 90, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and came home with an Eastern-African-Middle Eastern (EAME) Campaign Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Medal Army Occupation Ribbon (Germany), two Overseas Bars and a Victory Ribbon. He was issued a Lapel Button on September 2, 1946. When he returned home, he became a fireman for Canon City.

Nichols leaned back in his chair, glancing out of his window at Valley Assisted Living in Silver Cliff, where he has lived for the past year. He explained a little of what he would talk about on Saturday.

"My wife and I first moved here in 1957," he said. "She had a brother that we were visiting in Fort Carson. I asked her while we were here if she wanted to buy a house and stay. She looked at me and said, ‘I thought you’d never ask.’"

They bought a house in the Silver Park area in Westcliffe, where they lived until his wife passed away last April 29.

"A year and four months ago," he said with tears in his eyes.

Nichols joined the Army when he was 17. He had watched the news reels about Hitler and the war and known that in a year he would be drafted. So he told his mom that he wanted to do his duty now.

"‘I’m proud of you,’ she told me," he remembered. "Tears had welled up in her eyes as she signed to let me go."

He was shipped off to Germany without receiving all of his training. When a sergeant asked for volunteers to board the Queen Mary and leave for Europe, he raised his hand. So far he had only been trained to use an M1, and when he volunteered he had a bloodied mouth from an M1 kickback. The sergeant didn’t care, and he didn’t ask.

"On my first day with the Infantry F328 Yankee Division (YD)," he said with a big smile, "I was walking beside my captain on one of those perfect German gravel roads. A mortar shell hit between us."

Nichols had been wearing 60 mm shells around his neck when the mortar came. The shrapnel shot into the air, and neither he nor his captain were wounded. But his fall combined with the heavy ammo he carried hurt his neck, which still bothers him today.

He walked with his troop across two and a half countries: France, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

"What made a person feel so good," he smiled, "is when all these women would fix cookies, really good cake, and bring them to us as we walked through their land. Most towns would be empty. But the German women and their kids that were still around came up to us, shook our hands and said, ‘America good. Hitler bad.’" Tears filled his eyes as his smile grew wider, and he nodded.

"These were supposed to be our enemies," he said. "And there I had never been more welcomed in my life."

His name is on the WWII memorial in Washington D.C., and engraved at the Florence Memorial Park on a brick.

To hear the rest of his life story of how he survived the Battle of the Bulge, and what he did once he returned home, be sure to attend that Saturday afternoon honor party at the home of his son Gary and daughter-in-law Andrea. He has another son, Danny Nichols, who lives near Jack’s old home in Westcliffe.