SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Dennis Williams still has the government-issued U.S. Army combat boots he received in 1951, when he was drafted to fight in the Korean War.
He shows off a canteen, silverware and mess kit that are similar to items he carried in a backpack during combat. He displays the photos he took with a camera a fellow soldier "pawned" to him for "about $5."
But it was the surprise he received a few weeks ago that will complete his collection of memorabilia. After fighting 63 years ago in the war, Williams received three medals — two Korean Service medals, one with three Bronze stars, and a National Defense medal.
"Somebody contacted me from the Pentagon," the 85-year-old said. "They sent me a letter."
Williams said he doesn't know what took so long.
"I have no idea," he told The Saginaw News. "It could've been a mistake."
Williams, a Mississippi native, was drafted at 21. He doesn't brag about being a war hero, though he is more than eager to share battlefield stories.
"Although I didn't get wounded, I did get frostbite," a tall, slender, gray-haired Williams said. "We would fight sometimes in 40-below-zero temperatures. There were bombs falling all over the place.
"The enemy would shoot flares to find out our location, and when they find our location, they would drop bombs."
Williams was in combat for 13 months before he was transferred to the United States, he said. The Army was only partly integrated then, recalled Williams, who is black.
"When I was drafted, we all ate together, but blacks and whites slept in different barracks," Williams said.
After serving in the Army, Williams went back home for a few months before landing in Saginaw. He worked at General Motors for 33 years before retiring in 1986. He volunteered another 20 years with Michigan Blood and had a landscaping business that he gave up about 10 years ago because "it grew too big."
Williams lives in a quiet suburban neighborhood with a well-kept yard in Saginaw Township. His wife of 56 years died in 2012. He has no children.
Williams said he is happy to finally receive the medals, which he is displaying behind glass.
"On the front line, you met many trucks with body parts headed to the rear," he said. "Many wounded soldiers and overturned trucks. I took some chances."
Photo: Army veteran Dennis Williams displays on Oct. 16, 2015, in his in Saginaw, Mich., home the medals he recently received for serving during the Korean War.
Jeff Schrier/The Saginaw News/AP
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