Veterans Voices

Veterans Voices: Army Medic, Curtis Nelson, earned Silver Star during Korean War

Veterans Voices

In honor of all veterans who have served, we continue to share the stories of veterans in our area in a special series called Veterans Voices.

Curtis Nelson joined the Army in 1950. He was a medic and stationed in Korea. His job was to help guys get off the front line when they were injured.

“The only thing you did was anybody you found that was still moving and just gasping, you helped them get up and get going,” said Curtis Nelson, Army Veteran.

He would rush to help men without considering his own safety.

“For the most part as a medic, you didn’t carry a gun,” Nelson said.

“You’re not supposed to really, but you do it anyhow. Because sometimes, we run into a combat situation where all of a sudden a guy pops out of a side of a hill and he’s got a gun. And so you don’t want to just stand there and say, ‘AHH.’ You want to take and shoot him or try and shoot him.”

And he isn’t sure how many he helped.

“You just helped a few guys,” Nelson said.

“And as you helped them, you just said a prayer that they would make it. We didn’t count bodies. Didn’t have enough sense.”

Saving mens’ lives wasn’t the only thing Nelson did in Korea. His division entered a small village and he had to help a new life enter the world –rather than save one.

“She was laying on the floor,” Nelson said.

“And so I reached down, grabbed her hand and helped her get up, and she walked over to the wall and put her back against the wall. And then she pushed a couple times and out popped this baby.”

That was the first baby he had ever delivered.

“Well, I was 19 at the time. I knew where babies came from and that was about it,” Nelson said.

But it was his heroic actions on Sept. 21, 1951, that earned him the Silver Star.

He noticed three men were shot and grabbed a first aid kit and ran through enemy fire to help them. He made three trips carrying and dragging each man to safety. Nelson continued to help other men — despite the dangerous conditions.

“Realism was seeing guys get shot, and getting them off the lines and getting the litter-bearers,” Nelson said.

“I had about 20 litter-bearers and I paid them out of my own pocket.”

Nowadays, he lives at the St. Andrews Health Center in Bottineau.

Nelson said he doesn’t have the silver star or the papers on it because he’s staying in the hospital and doesn’t see the point in keeping it. Instead, his kids have all of his military belongings.

Nelson said he never ran into someone he helped. After his transition out of the Army, he attended the University of North Dakota and got a degree in biochemistry.

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