AVON, Conn. (WTNH) — As the Avery Heights Senior Living Complex in Hartford honors its veterans, one hero stands out in a room full of heroes. Col. Morton Katz actually signed up as an Army reservist before the U.S. entered World War II.

“I was commissioned in 1940,” Katz remembered. “So, I was called up four days after Pearl Harbor.”

He was part of a paratrooper unit that went up through Italy and into France. On Rosh Hashana in 1944, he and a comrade actually found a synagogue to attend.

“As we were leaving, these people had been through the gates of hell, and they were praying for our safety,” Katz said.

He saw that hell himself as he helped liberate one of the Nazi concentration camps.

“Literally mountains of sandals, wooden sandals from the many, many inmates, prisoners, who had been working and died of starvation,” he recalled.

Katz continued to serve the public even after his time in the military. He spent decades as a public defender in Connecticut courts, working until age 100. He is now 104, and on Friday, Avery Heights honored him with a lifetime achievement award.

“Thank you, Col,Katz,” Minister David Ibrahim of The Heart said. “Thank you for your strength, thank you for your bravery, thank you for your courage, and most importantly, thank you for your sacrificial love for your nation.”