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Utah man receives war medals 66 years late

SALT LAKE CITY -- More than six decades after being freed from a Japanese prisoner of war camp, a Utah veteran was compelled to relive the horrors and triumphs of his World War II experience this month when he received a mysterious package:

It contained seven medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star, two of the Army's highest battlefield honors.

The medals have become a source of pride for former Army Capt. Tom Harrison, 93, since they came in a box with nothing more than a packing slip from a logistics center in Philadelphia on Nov. 4.

That happened to be his 65th wedding anniversary.

But they also refreshed painful memories of the Bataan Death March, POW camps and the comrades he lost. Harrison can talk at length about his time as a soldier. But he talks about it much like he talks about golf, focusing on small details -- be it the flight of a well-hit tee shot or the day he met Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- and the people who surrounded him. He doesn't dwell on his own valor.

After Pearl Harbor, Harrison spent months fighting the Japanese before American and Filipino troops surrendered at the Battle of Bataan. He managed to survive, without lasting physical injury, both the infamous Death March and three-plus years as a POW.

"It brings back memories, but also makes you feel like somebody appreciated your service," Harrison said. "It also reminds me of the people I served with in the Philippines. I'm the only survivor from my unit now. I've lost most of my friends."

About 20 years ago, Harrison "shook the cobwebs loose" by writing a book called "Survivor." That has made it easier -- but not easy -- to talk about the suffering that defined the years of imprisonment.

"I don't like to talk about what makes a hero. It's not something I like to broadcast," Harrison said. "But my kids are impressed, and my grandkids say they [the medals] are 'awesome.' "

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