BOULDER, Colo. -- Seventy-three years after World War II, the memories and emotions are still raw for Leila Morrison.
“It makes my heart quiver a little,” she told Denver7’s Dayle Cedars.
At almost 95-years-old, Leila knows a thing or two about freedom.
“Freedom is not free. A big price was paid for it,” she said.
Leila was just 22-years-old when she landed on Normandy Beach not too long after D-Day.
“We boarded a small ship that went up to the beach and the front opens up and you walked out with all of your worldly possessions,” she remembered.
But it was at the Battle of the Bulge where the young nurse worked on her first patients and learned that "War is hell." For a year she worked the shock and pre-op tent.
“We tried to bring them out of shock and get them in a little better shape,” she said.
For years, the faces of those men, and the sounds and images of the horrors of war, were too much for her to talk about.
It wasn’t until recently that she felt comfortable talking and sharing her story with others.
“I wish I could have said, ‘This is a movie’ or something but it wasn’t,” Leila told Denver7. “You have to face reality. It was real. And you can see how that would make you so thankful to be an American.”
While war made her grateful, it was what she saw after the war that changed her life forever.
Leila was one of the first nurses into Buchenwald, the largest concentration camp in Germany.
“As we walked in the gate, it was a great big iron gate and over the top of it in English (the sign read) '6 1/2 million Jews and political prisoners have been taken care of,'” she remembered. “The people there, there is no way I can describe them. They were so, you have heard of skin and bone? Well honey, they were really just skin and bone. So thin you wondered how they could walk.”
She says those were the lucky ones. Nearby trenches were filled with bodies. Others had been taken to the crematorium.
“It is hard to describe your feeling, but I hope and pray that I don't see even close to that again.”
Leila says the only way for others to not have to see what she saw is to learn and remember what happened. If not, she fears history could repeat itself.
“You wonder, how in the world one human could treat another that way,” she added.
Leila Morrison is one of three veterans the BolderBOULDER is paying tribute to during the Memorial Day ceremony following this year's race. That tribute is being hosted by Denver7 chief meteorologist Mike Nelson.