American hero honored decades after his military service

It’s better late than never.

On July 25, World War II veteran Eugene Gagliardi received a Bronze Star to commemorate his heroism during the Battle of the Bulge, a fight that took place nearly 70 years ago.

Gagliardi was initially rejected from the New York National Guard, after he was discovered to be an overeager 15-year-old; he successfully enlisted in the army at the age of 17.

His division was in France when he had his first combat experience in the Battle of the Bulge. His company was pinned down for 15 days, enduring the worst blizzard of the century.

Outgunned, outnumbered and out of food, Gagliardi was given the responsibility to scout out ammunition and fresh fuel. He crawled to and from the nearest village, but to no avail.

The whole troop was on the brink of frostbite and starvation, while massive shelling occurred around them. When it looked like there were no options left, a miracle happened: the skies opened up, allowing the Air Force to come in and push back the Germans.

“The sky was beautiful and filled with thousands of planes, like mosquitoes,” Gagliardi recalled.

The Battle of the Bulge is the largest land battle ever won by the United States.

Colonel Eluyn Gines, garrison commander at Fort Hamilton, presented Private First Class Gagliardi with the Bronze Star Medal, saying, “Your commitment to service goes beyond comprehension. Your commitment to this country goes beyond the imagination.”

Gagliardi received his Bronze Star with humility.

“I still feel like I don’t deserve this honor, because I left so many people behind,” was the only remark made by Gagliardi, as he choked back tears.

Gagliardi has worked his entire life to ensure that patriotism is permanently embedded into the lives of each and every one of his family members.

“My father is the epitome of a true American,” said Eugene Gagliardi, Jr. “He taught us that when we see medals, they came from a lifetime of service.”

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