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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

NELSON TOWNSEND STANDS behind the bar in his wife, Mae’s, restaurant, The Inn by the Falls in Ferndale. Townsend was a senior at Liberty High School when he was drafted into the United States Army. He received commendations for his service 57 years later.

It's Still an Honor to Him

By Jeanne Sager
FERNDALE — July 12, 2002 – Nelson Townsend doesn’t believe in too little, too late.
To him, receiving a medal from the government is an honor, even if it comes 57 years after the fact.
The Ferndale resident entered World War II in 1943 at 18. He was medically discharged from the Army before the war ended in 1945.
But it wasn’t until a few months ago that Townsend received a letter in the mail from the Army’s offices in Philadelphia.
It seemed that for his efforts in Africa, Italy, France and Germany, Townsend was due not just one medal, but two Bronze Stars, an Oakleaf Cluster, a Combat Infantrymen’s Award, a Presidential Distinguished Unit Award, an Emblem Award and several others for serving his country so many years ago.
The thing is, Townsend doesn’t know why he got them.
“It was kind of a shock,” he said. “I knew I had a few decorations, but I don’t know why they sent this now.
“Maybe they were going through old records,” he surmised. “I wasn’t a hero – I just did everything everyone else did.
“The Bronze Stars were the greatest thing,” he added. “I evidently did something right.”
Townsend was drafted into the Army right out of Liberty High School.
He turned 18 in October and by June of the following year, when he was close to completing his senior year of school, the Army called Townsend to action.
He hadn’t even reached graduation when he was sent overseas. Townsend initially wanted to join the Air Force because he loves to fly.
But, he said, the military was in need of bodies, and they took his whole class of would-be airmen and shipped them to join the infantry in Africa.
He saw action on two continents, even losing the majority of his unit during the Coleman Campaign in Germany before developing hepatitis while crossing the Rhine River and being sent to a hospital in southern France.
He came home, finally completing his high school career at Liberty Central School, and went to college in New Jersey.
He ran an air-conditioning business and later worked down in Florida with his wife, Mae.
Townsend’s memories of the war are “all bad,” he said.
“The only good memories I have are in the hospital,” he noted with a sad laugh. “We went through hell.
“It was winter there, and it was so cold,” he recalled. “You’d get down in the hay to rest, and it would be cold underneath.
“It was too cold for there even to be bugs in the hay,” he explained. “And we were wet most of the time.
“But I came out lucky, I have my two arms, two legs.”
Townsend will never call himself a hero. He was drafted, he points out – he didn’t ask to go. But that doesn’t mean he would send his medals back.
“I sure as hell deserve them,” he explained. “We all do – nobody went through more hell than the infantrymen.”
But the Army has taken care of him over the years, he added.
“They’ve been awful nice to me,” Townsend explained. “They took care of my problems; they still take care of my problems.”
At 77, Townsend is still receiving disability for the problems he suffered during his service.
Today, he and Mae split their time between their homes in Ferndale and Florida. They spend the summers in Sullivan County running Mae’s restaurant, the Inn by the Falls in Ferndale.
The couple have two children, Nelson Lee and Teri Lynn, who both live in Florida, and five grandchildren.

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