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Montana World War II veteran honored with Congressional Gold Medal

“I’m in awe. I still haven't gotten accustomed to it. I’m just in complete awe."
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Posted at 7:08 PM, Apr 26, 2024

BOZEMAN — Thursday morning, Dr. Maury Irvine, a 100-year-old World War II veteran, received the most distinguished award that Congress bestows: the Congressional Gold Medal.

“What does this mean to you?” I asked Irvine.

“I’m in awe. I still haven't gotten accustomed to it. I’m just in complete awe. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t really think,” Irvine tells me.

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Dr. Maury Irvine was born Jan. 5, 1924 in San Francisco. Soon after, Irvine moved to Montana and graduated from Butte High in 1941. Pearl Harbor and WW2 changed Maury’s life, and he knew he wanted to join the Navy.

“The war started. As soon as I heard about it, I ran down to the Navy recruiting office. I love the Navy. They immediately gave me an eye test and declared that I was unfit for service,” says Irvine, who is legally blind in his left eye.

His blindness made him ineligible for the Navy and most forces, but that wasn’t going to stop him from fighting in WW2.

“I heard there was something called the Merchant Marine, and they were looking for radio operators,” Irvine tells me.

Irvine had lots of experience with radios. In high school, he built himself a radio station and got a ham radio license. Irvine got a position with the Merchant Marines and served as a radio officer until 1946.

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“How’d you enjoy your time there?” I asked Irvine.

“Oh, I loved it. It was wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it,” he tells me.

Thursday Morning, Congressman and Navy SEAL veteran Ryan Zinke presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Irvine.

“You know what's nice about representing Montana, is there’s a lot of veterans and heroes in the community. And it's an honor and a privilege of recognizing one of them today,” says Zinke.

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The Congressional Gold Medal is considered the most distinguished award that Congress bestows. Other recipients of the award include Sir Winston Churchill and George Washington.

Dr. Irvine received this award for his courage while serving in World War II and his countless accomplishments after the war—such as developing versions of the early digital computer, allowing computers to be small enough to fit into airplanes.

“I’m in awe of the whole day,” Irvine tells me one last time, as he takes in his new award.