HENDERSON, Texas (KETK) — Joe Hildenbrand is a Purple Heart recipient and World War II army veteran who was drafted at 19-years-old.

“I just knew I had to go, so what the hell, let the good times roll,” said Hildenbrand.

At 98, Hildenbrand is one of the few East Texas World War II veterans living.

“You know to think in 2022 we still have someone who was fighting for our country in 1945, that, like that alone is amazing,” said John Medgarroberts, Henderson ISD

The memories of battle are still fresh in his mind.

“I never will forget though, when that guy next to me got hit, you heard ‘ugh,’ that was the end of him he went quick,” said Hildenbrand.

The smell of sulfur reminded him of the past, and when he was shot.

“The lieutenant, he pulled me back into a culvert there in the road and tore my britches off of me, or the leg off of me, started putting sulfur drugs on it, and they wrapped it up,” said Hildenbrand.

Hildenbrand wasn’t able to continue serving but is grateful he still had his life.

“I was lucky, I was fortunate not to get, actually I was shot at a lot of times, the day I got wounded I was shot at. I got Germans shooting at (us), I got behind a tree and shells were hitting them, oh boy I was lucky,” said Hildenbrand.

While recovering back in the United States, he was presented with a Purple Heart, and two Bronze Star medals for his bravery.

The French gave him a special honor as well.

“Victory in Europe, the French gave us, all of us that helped liberate France got a medal for that,” said Hildenbrand.

He will never forget the battle, and is blessed he lived to tell the tale.

“I tell you, I was glad it was over,” said Hildenbrand.

Hildenbrand is left with the scars as he vividly remembers WWII.


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