His tireless life of service, humble and courteous demeanor, and brilliant intelligence illustrate why he is called “the greatest generation.”
In a recent surprise ceremony, Jesuit Father Ed Flaherty, 102, finally got the medals he won but never received for his military service in WWII.
“I was kind of stunned,” Father Flaherty told the Denver Catholic by phone from St. Louis, Missouri. âAnd also embarrassed. It was a shock. “
On the morning of June 18, United States Representative Ed Perlmutter and retired United States Army Major General Steven Best visited the veteran’s home in North Denver to present him with the medals he deserved. and long-awaited for her work as a medic in the United States Army from 1941 to 1945, including three years in the Pacific Theater. As a member of the medical detachment of the 131st Engineer Regiment, he treated the wounds of his comrades and helped with evacuations.
âIt is a great privilege and honor to recognize Father Flaherty for his service to our country during World War II,â said Congressman Perlmutter. “We are proud that Father Flaherty has made Colorado his home for so many years and are indebted to him forever for his service to our community and his sacrifices on behalf of our country.”
Father Flaherty received:
Â· Army Good Conduct Medal;
Â· US Defense Service Medal;
Â· American Campaign Medal;
Â· Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars;
Â· World War II Victory Medal;
Â· Honorable-WWII lapel button;
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with a Bronze Service Star.
Major General Best pinned the medals on the centenary.
âHis service in the Pacific theater of operations has been in places most of us know only from what we’ve read in history books or seen in movies,â he said. he declares. âWhile we recognize his service in uniform, perhaps even more remarkable is his length of service after removing his army uniform, in exchange for another type of ‘uniform.’
“It is indeed a special day for both a servant of his nation in times of need, and a servant of God.”
Almost a year before the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that officially launched the United States into World War II, Edward Flaherty Jr., then 22, was doing the bookkeeping for his father’s garage. in Kansas City, Missouri, when he was drafted into the United States Army in the first peacetime draft. Tied to one year of service, he remained in the military for four years, until the end of World War II in 1945.
âI couldn’t imagine killing another human being, so I asked to be transferred to the medical detachment,â Father Flaherty recalls. “I chose the doctors because, of course, I still had to be on duty to help win the war.”
After his release from the military, he returned home to Kansas City and worked several years for the Folgers Coffee Company as an accountant and bookkeeper. But he was dissatisfied with the business world.
âI wanted to help people,â he said, adding that with a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy, he felt ill-equipped to attempt to pursue a new career in law or medicine. âDeep down, even in elementary school, I thought I was a Catholic priest. Finally, I guess the Holy Spirit got a hold of me.
Educated by Jesuits at Rockhurst High School and Rockhurst College, he had long admired them as both priests and excellent teachers. In 1959, at the age of 40, he joined the order.
âThey just impressed me as good men,â said Father Flaherty. âThey worked for God and for the people. “
After his training and with further degrees in theology, he was ordained a priest in 1965. He moved to Denver two years later to teach theology at Regis University. During his 54 years of ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver, in addition to working as an educator, he also served as a chaplain – both for the Knights of Columbus and at the former Lowry Air Force Base – and exercised a pastoral ministry.
âI started helping a pastor at St. Anne’s Shrine in Arvada (in 1992) and stayed there for 21 years,â said Father Flaherty. âI finally decided (in 2013) at the age of 95 to retire.
Until his move this week from Denver to the Jesuit Retreat Home in St. Louis, Father Flaherty had continued his pastoral ministry with the brother priests residing with him at the Xavier de Regis Center and as chaplain of the Knights of Columbus of North Denver.
He is adjusting to his new home and is still impressed with his military medals. Another Jesuit had apparently discovered Father Flaherty’s army discharge papers and contacted Perlmutter to acknowledge his military service before the priest left Denver.
âI never dreamed of this happening,â said Father Flaherty. âI was very honored to have a major general pinning the medals on me. I was as surprised as anyone in the world could be.
All photos by Brett Stakelin courtesy of Regis University