Distinguished by his service for the U.S. Army in WWII, Harold Ahrendt of Woodland Park will be honored by the American Legion Post 1980 with a reception Oct. 15.
A few days shy of his 100th birthday, Ahrendt looks back on those early days.
“I was inducted into the Army in 1942,” he said. Part of the 8th Armored Division, Ahrendt began his military career at Fort Polk, La., and served the next two years on stateside duty.
Talking about his service during the war, Ahrendt offers a history lesson that includes two of the war’s great leaders who ultimately oversaw the surrender of troops in Germany and the Netherlands.
After leaving the states, Ahrendt and the 8th division were sent to Europe. “We crossed into France on New Year’s Day in 1945,” he said. “We served under Gen. George Patton and then we were transferred under Montgomery in Holland.”
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (known as “Monty”) and his troops left Holland and crossed into Germany where they stayed until January 1946, when the war was over.
While conditions were miserable during the war, he recalls only a few of them. “Looking at a map now I see lots of names of towns that look familiar,” he said. “I feel I should know them but have no recollection of where we were or what we did. I saw a lot of slave labor camps.”
The division spent the last six weeks of the war in Germany. “We moved into Czechoslovakia to prepare for duty in Japan,” he said. “But then Japan surrendered, and the division was broken up.”
He retired from the Army as a technical sergeant and returned home to Sioux City, Iowa.
Over the years, he opened two successful Coast-to-Coast stores in Iowa and Minnesota, switched careers and spent 18 years in the insurance business.
He and his late first wife moved to Woodland Park in the 1970s to be closer to their two daughters and a son who lived in Denver and Longmont.
After his wife died, he married Karen whom he met through their work at Faith Lutheran Church. In retirement, they traveled the country, visiting family and friends.
Now that’s he’s nearing a century old on Oct. 28, Ahrendt is not out beating the drums of longevity or how to go with the flow for 10 decades. “I never gave it much thought but just took it as it came,” he said. Karen added, “It’s the genes.”
But the American Legion Post thinks 100 years calls for a celebration. The legion hosts a birthday reception at 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Woodland Park VFW Hall at 27637 N. Colorado State Highway 67.
Special guests include Ahrendt’s children Marcia, Audrey and Bruce, and their families. The public is invited to join the celebration.