Posted: Apr 17, 2013 10:28 AM by Katy Harris KXLF News
Updated: Apr 17, 2013 10:53 AM
JACKSON - A small southwest Montana town is home to a veteran that fought in one of WWII's most well known battles, the Battle of the Bulge.
Jay Nelson, 89, was born and raised in Jackson.
As a kid, he used to take a horse and ride up into the mountains on the west side of the Big Hole Valley where he'd be gone for about three or four days at a time.
Now, he lives just off the highway in a cozy home, but there was a time in his life, for about six months, when things were a little more intense.
"You figured if you could make it on the front lines for 10 days or two weeks, you're probably all right. You learned enough fast enough," says Nelson.
He served all over Europe while working as a machine gunner for the Army Infantry 99th Division.
"Nobody likes a machine gunner on either side. When a machine gun goes off somebody is shooting at you. When you fire a machine gun you immediately move cause there's going to be a hole right there where you were in about 10 seconds," he said.
He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was holding the front lines about five miles away from Bastogne.
Nelson made about $15 a month, never had winter clothes and there was barely any food to go around. But he packed around a unique stash of necessities to survive.
"I was carrying a machine gun, a pistol, grenades, TNT and a chocolate bar," says Nelson.
He was hit in March 1945 and sent to five different countries to recover in hospitals until November.
Then, he returned home to Jackson and built his home that he still lives in today, just off the highway.
Nelson will turn 90 years old on July 3.