Editor’s Note: Dr. Oscar Reiss received his World War II medals at a ceremony arranged by Congressman Ed Perlmutter on Aug. 3. Perlmutter has held several medal ceremonies for local veterans who were never awarded or presented with the medals and honors they earned during their service. Reiss received the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct, European-African-Middle Easter Campaign, World War II Victory and Army of Occupation of Germany medals.
Born in Rhineland, Germany, I moved to New York City in April of 1937.
I eventually was certified in animal husbandry and creamery and became a herdsman of 40 Ayrshire cattle, delivering 250 gallons of milk.
I wanted to volunteer for the military, but was unable to because I was not a U.S. citizen. In 1944, I was drafted into the Army and did my basic training at Ft. McLellan, in Alabama. As part of that process, I finally received my citizenship.
My time in the service
I was sent to Cherbourg, France, and was assigned to the 79th Infantry Division B. Company. In Alsace, also in France, we guarded the right flank during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945, I was awarded the Silver Star Medal.
Several days later, I was wounded by shrapnel and taken to a hospital in Liege, Belgium, and was later awarded the Purple Heart for these injuries.
Life after the war
I was admitted to the University of Chicago, where I studied for a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. More than 10 Nobel laureates were on campus at the time, and I am grateful for the GI bill that made my studies financially possible.
After receiving my bachelor’s, I went on to receive a Ph.D in biochemistry.
In 1959, I moved to Denver for a position at the Webb-Waring Lung Institute, which was associated with the University of Colorado Medical School. We did some of the early research on emphysema and smoking.
I also worked with medical students during this time.
Finally receiving my medals
The medal ceremony congressman Perlmutter arranged was impressive, especially because there were 20 to 30 Army members there, in addition to friends and other family members.
It was just tremendous — and overwhelming. It was so overwhelming that after it was over, I went home and went right to bed.
Content originally published by the Lakewood Sentinel on August 22nd, 2016.