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Perlmutter awards World War II veteran Oscar Reiss seven war medals after nearly 70 years
Nearly 70 years after performing the acts of valor that earned him seven prestigious war medals for his service in the U.S. Army, 95-year-old WWII veteran Oscar Reiss, Ph.D was finally presented his medals in a formal ceremony Aug. 3.
Reiss contacted Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office to ask for a medal ceremony for the Silver Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal that had already been awarded to him without ceremony, and in the process, Perlmutter’s office discovered that Reiss earned five additional medals that were never obtained or presented.
The Silver Star Medal, the third highest military decoration for gallantry in action against the enemy, was awarded to Reiss along with the Purple Heart Medal, the oldest military award still given to those wounded or killed during their military service; the Army Good Conduct Medal for exemplary behavior that distinguishes service members among their fellow soldiers; the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal, which recognizes those who served in the European Theater during WWII; the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, which recognizes those who served in the European occupation force following the close of WWII; and the Honorable Service Lapel, awarded to those discharged under honorable conditions during WWII.
“Not a lot of real estate there,” Perlmutter joked as he watched Reiss’s jacket quickly fill up with hardware.
Born in Rhineland, Germany in 1921, Reiss left for the United States by himself in 1937 to stay with an uncle in New York City, and then later moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he received a certificate in animal husbandry and creamery in 1940 at the National Farm School.
In 1942 Reiss was declared essential and unable to volunteer for military service because of his important work on the farm, and because he was considered an enemy alien having been born in Germany. But in 1944 he was drafted and attended basic training, where he also gained citizenship.
Shortly after his training, Reiss was sent to France as a replacement to the B Company of the 315thregiment, 79th Infantry Division, where he guarded the right flank during the Battle of the Bulge. His courageous actions earned him the Silver Star Medal. He used his knowledge of the German language to gather intelligence and minimize causalities by communicating with the enemy to abandon their machine gun positions and was able to learn the exact position of enemy field pieces.
Several days after the Battle of the Bulge, he was wounded by shrapnel, earning him a Purple Heart Medal.
In 1947, Reiss was discharged and returned to the U.S. to start his family and use the GI Bill to further his education. He went to the University of Chicago where he received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and went on to graduate with a Ph.D in biochemistry. Following his education, he became a fellow at the American Heart Association, taught at John’s Hopkins, and later moved to Colorado in 1959 to teach at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“Oscar Reiss has had an amazing life, but terrible losses during the Holocaust of family and friends and neighbors, but because of his courage and bravery and his parents’ wisdom, he was able to come to the U.S., and we’ve all been blessed and benefited by your service in the military, as an educator, and as a great member of our community,” Perlmutter said.
Reiss’s wife Diane, daughter Irma, granddaughter Holly, and great-granddaughters Arya and Amelia were at his side to honor his valor and lifetime of achievements.
“This is really important, and it’s so important to him because the Army and the United States have made such a difference in his life,” his wife Diane said. “He’s a true man of trust and integrity, as it is presented here today.Content originally published by the Colorado Statesman on August 12th, 2016.