Nearly 70 years after serving in the army, a Staten Island war veteran is set to receive a Bronze Star medal, one of the nation's highest honors. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
An American flag hangs outside the door of Eugene Gagliardi's Rossville home. Inside, there are signs of patriotism everywhere.
While he's not shy about boasting about his love for his country, and the many medals and proclamations he's received for his time in the service, the World War II veteran only recently started talking about his time in combat.
"There's so much I could say and tell, but it's not in me to do it, because it was so bad," Gagliardi said.
So you can imagine the 87-year-old's surprise when he received a letter from the White House with a note from President Barack Obama, notifying him that he's been awarded with a bronze star medal.
Gagliardi was just 17 when he enlisted. He served only three years in the Army.
Those three years, he said, were the hardest of his life, because he survived the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II.
"I know it's a big honor, and I'm trying to understand why," Gagliardi said. "I mean, I didn't do anything exceptional. I just did what we were all doing. We were fighting to keep alive and to beat the enemy."
Gagliardi and his unit battled freezing temperatures, food shortages and no ammunition as the Germans assaulted their ranks. He survived by crawling for days through the snow until he finally reached safety.
Suffering from severe hypothermia that left his feet with nerve damage to this day, he finally returned home.
Gagliardi later went on to enjoy a career working for several local newspapers, including the New York Post and the New York Times, before retiring in the 1980s. He also spends a lot of time working with veteran groups.
"It never goes away," Gagliardi said. "That's one thing. It never goes away. When you're in combat, it stays with you. And all the men I served with, they were a beautiful bunch. I remember them like yesterday."
On Thursday, he will be officially presented with his Bronze Star medal at the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn. He's expected to make some remarks, though he said he's at a loss for what he'll say.