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Embassy Decorates 11 U.S. Veterans with Legion of Honor

Embassy Decorates 11 U.S. Veterans with Legion of Honor

Published on January 30, 2014
France’s Highest Award Goes to D-Day Liberators

Watch the video of this event

On Monday, January 27, the Embassy of France honored 11 U.S. veterans who served during the Normandy landing that started on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, by giving them the Legion of Honor.

The award is France’s highest and pays tribute to those who have provided exceptional service to France. Led by Allied forces, the liberation of the northern French region of Normandy would mark the decisive turn toward ending World War II.

In opening remarks before several hundred attendees, family members, diplomatic personnel, and press professionals, Olivier Sérot-Alméras, Consul General of France in Washington, lauded the sacrifices made by the men.

Olivier Sérot-Alméras, Consul General of France in Washington

"The grief from death and destruction... went hand-in-hand with the newfound freedom" of liberated French citizens, Mr. Sérot-Alméras said.

At the time of the war, those enlisted were in their early twenties and in some cases still teenagers. The President of the French Republic has decided that all U.S. veterans should be honored, whether they served at Normandy or as part of Operation Dragoon, on France’s Mediterranean coast. The Embassy and consulates have been mobilized to identify as many of these veterans as possible.

The event marks the first of numerous ceremonies planned to commemorate this year’s 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing. On and around June 6, D-Day’s anniversary, France will be hosting American dignitaries, organizing events, and promoting French-American relations through the remembrance of a signal moment in the two countries’ common history.

The Embassy event was attended by a delegation of French officials and citizens from the Basse-Normandie region, on whose coast the D-Day landing took place. Philippe Gosselin, a Deputy from La Manche; Laurent Beauvais, the President of the Region; Jean-Pierre Lhonneur, the Mayor of Carentan; and Marc Lefèvre, Mayor of Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise, all traveled to Washington for the occasion.

A group of some 20 French high school students were also present from Carentan, a small Norman town that was the site of a key battle in the immediate push by the Allies from the Atlantic coast toward the French interior.

A group of French high school students from Carentan (Normandy)

Estelle Foucher, one of the Carentan students, gave a short speech in English expressing her gratitude as part of a younger generation able to enjoy peace in France because of the U.S. veterans’ service. She praised the men’s "perseverance and pugnacity" against heavy fighting and casualties.

The French students were joined by other high-schoolers from the Lycée Rochambeau, a French-language school near Washington.

In addition to the Legion of Honor, the veterans also received a medal from the Normandy region, bestowed by Mr. Beauvais.

Since the Normandy landing and re-establishment of peace in Europe, the battle has come to signify the beginning of peace and reconciliation between partners in today’s European Union. In 2012, following six decades of peace on the Continent, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. France is proud to play a dynamic role within the EU’s process of integration.

The 11 U.S. veterans decorated with the Legion of Honor were Carlton Bazzell, Austin Cox, Russell Decker, Charles Ecker, Frank Ehly, Sebastian Gionfriddo, Frederick Griswold, Raymond Gritton, Thomas Hasbrouck, Walter Heline, and Everett Sumner.

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