About 200 Colorado Springs mourners marveled Friday at how Army Maj. Duke Boswell survived his 20s.
The 92-year-old, who died Nov. 29, survived four parachute jumps in World War II combat with the 82nd Airborne Division after enlisting as a 16-year-old in 1940. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate a concentration camp.
"With the 136 people who started with Duke, only 13 finished the war," Army Col. Mark Collins said, explaining that the others were killed or wounded.
In his 20s, Boswell survived severe mortar wounds while fighting with the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea.
"He served bravely for 23 years," his son Ralph Boswell said.
Boswell's funeral drew soldiers, airmen and teachers. ROTC cadets came from UCCS and cadets came from the Air Force Academy. Soldiers from Fort Carson's 10th Special Forces Group formed an honor guard for the last man alive who had four stars signifying combat jumps on his parachutist wings.
Boswell admitted in a 2014 interview with The Gazette that his survival of all that fighting was a mystery.
"There were times when I was 20 when I didn't think I would live to see the next day," Boswell said.
But Boswell learned early to expect the unexpected.
He jumped in Sicily and Italy during World War II. When he jumped in Normandy on June 6, 1944, the parachute opened so violently it ripped open his pants pockets.
He survived that wild night, fending off German counterattacks as other troops made their way inland from the invasion beaches.
After the war he married and raised two sons. Leaving the military in 1963, Boswell took up teaching in Colorado Springs and taught sixth-graders for the next 20 years.
Boswell never forgot the men who didn't survive the war. He returned to Normandy three times to honor them.
"As I stood there before the monument, it brought back memories of the ones I knew best," he told The Gazette after a 2011 visit to France.
Family members say the old soldier lived so long for a reason: He taught a new generation about sacrifice and valor.
School kids, Fort Carson troops and academy cadets learned the lessons he earned in World War II and Korea.
"He was a tremendous influence," Ralph Boswell said.
And Boswell will live on as others teach their kids about him and the other brave troops who won World War II, friend Barry O'Shea said.
Those lessons would make Duke smile.
"He always loved being a teacher," O'Shea said.