Retired U.S. Army Col. Virgil Hughes plays a dulcimer he made at his Wheat Ridge home on Dec. 11, 2017. Hughes had a 40-plus-year career with the military and was an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

(Stephanie Wolf/CPR News)

Retired Col. Virgil Hughes, of Wheat Ridge, spent more than 43 years with the U.S. Army. The only time he was in combat, though, was the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. And music helped pull him through.

"What I really remember most about it is that it was cold," Hughes tells Colorado Matters. "It was dreadfully cold."

The battle began mid-December 1944. It was Nazi Germany's final attack on the Western Front, a surprise assault against the Allied forces in the Ardennes forest area and one of the deadliest battles of the war. 

Hughes loved and played music his entire life. He co-ran the Hughes Dulcimer Company in Denver for decades.

 

(Stephanie Wolf/CPR News)

A rifleman with the 78th Infantry Division, Hughes loved to sing and grew up surrounded by music. That winter in 1944, he remembers his fellow soldiers asking to him to sing and play. "It was important because morale is tough in a combat unit like that," he said. "You're just constantly under mental strain."

After the war, Hughes taught in military service schools and retired from the Army in 1986. He ran the Hughes Dulcimer Company in Denver for decades. Hughes  turns 94 later this month and says his hearing is starting to go from being around too much artillery fire. Music remains a large presence in his life; he plays with a few bands and sings with a local choir.