One hundred years ago, horse and buggies were commonplace, and women were not able to vote. Penicillin, toasters, and zippers had yet to be invented and silent movies were the rage. Much of what we take for granted today in our lives was not yet a reality.
For Harry Nivens, born one hundred years ago and now living at Somerby in Lake Nona, the world has changed, grown, and is filled with memories of his earlier years – memories of childhood, family, friends, and a nation at war – World War 2.
When Nivens was 19 he enlisted in the U.S. Army, voluntarily joining the airborne division, partly because soldiers who had parachute jump status received higher pay. He wasn’t exactastly sure how much it was, he laughingly told Positively Osceola at his birthday party earlier this year, but he was fairly sure it was 50 or 60 dollars extra per month – to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane – something that not everyone is fond of.
Harry has experienced things most everyone has only read about in books or seen in movies. One such event was D-Day.
After an error in a designated drop zone, Harry, along with 17 other men found themselves scattered about in France and having to make their way to Saint-Mere-Eglise, On June 10, 1944, the men headed to Carentan France with a mission of seizing the town. Along the way one of the men, Nix, had been hit by gunfire and was laying hurt in the water beneath a footbridge. Harry pulled Nix out of the water and onto land where he cut his shirt away to examine the wound. Inside the shirt was the bullet, which has passed through the man’s body and was lodged inside his shirt. He grabbed the bullet and gave it to the man for a souvenir – the man was Emmitt Theodore Nix.
Nivens named his son Theodore Neil Nivens (Ted) after his two best friends in World War 2 – friends who never made it back home from Normandy; Theodore for Emmitt Theodore Nix, and Neil for Cornelius Owens. We had a chance to speak to Harry’s son Ted at his 100th birthday party.
“To all the families… stay together as family – stay connected, and to everyone… It’s so very important to remember our veterans, and what they sacrificed for our freedom,” Ted Nivens emotionally shared. “My dad was wounded on June 11th, 1944 and was hospitalized for many months and then moved to North Carolina, before down here to Florida. He and his brother at that point started an LP gas business with many locations in Florida before finally selling it in the 70s and then starting another business. When I was growing up dad really didn’t talk very much about his years serving in the Army, but as time would go by he began sharing more and more. It meant so much to him.
Harry’s Birthday was special, not just because he’s healthy and a century old, but because he was with family and friends, some in-person – some on zoom… but they were there, telling Harry that they love him more than anything. Positively Osceola was blessed to be there and to witness that love.
To Harry, and to all veterans, we thank you for your service!