Albert “Bulldog” Besser, a 94-year-old World War II veteran from Morrisville, Vermont, recently received the Congressional Gold Medal at Montpelier City Hall for his years of service.
Besser’s wife, Gretchen, did not tell him about the award until he arrived, she told Stowe Today.
“When we got there, and I first walked in, I saw all the people from Stowe, and I said, ‘I didn’t realize there were so many World War II veterans in Stowe,’” Besser said. “Then I realized they were all friends of mine or ours, and finally it dawned on me that she had pulled something off like this.”
Besser said he was flattered when he realized that Congressman Peter Welch was going to present the award to him. The two have known each other for around 15 years.
“Al throughout his life has been very generous, active in community affairs, very modest. He’s product of his service, but from his perspective, it’s just what you do,” Welch said at the ceremony.
“When [veterans] come home, it’s really important that we honor them because all of us who don’t serve benefit from those who do,” he added.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress can bestow to a civilian. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is among the luminaries that have received the medal, Welch said.
When he was 16 and in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree at Yale University, Besser enlisted in the Army Reserve Corps. Two years later, he began serving.
After the war ended, Besser decided to stay in Shanghai and became an economics teacher. In 1946, Besser moved back to America and met Gretchen, who at the time was his sister’s roommate.
Besser received a law degree from Yale Law School in 1949 and practice law for around 50 years before moving to Vermont.