RALEIGH: Vets awarded with France's highest honor for foreigners - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

14 WWII vets awarded with France's highest honor for foreigners

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Fourteen men who risked everything to help liberate France during World War II were awarded with France's Legion of Honor. (Jeff Reeves, WNCN) Fourteen men who risked everything to help liberate France during World War II were awarded with France's Legion of Honor. (Jeff Reeves, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Fourteen men who risked everything to help liberate France during World War II were honored Thursday with France's highest award that can be given to a foreigner.

The men, who are the last of the greatest generation, were presented Legion of Honor medals during a special ceremony today at the North Carolina capitol.

Among those in attendance was Pinehurst resident Gerald Anderson, who was one of thousands who stormed Omaha Beach during the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

"The first period on Omaha was not very pretty, I'll never forget that," Anderson said.

During combat, Jessie Bowman said medals and honors were the furthest things from their minds.

"I was thinking about my family, my country and just doing the best I could do," Bowman said.

But despite the horror of that day, there's something else Anderson won't forget -- the faces of those he helped liberate.

"Especially the people in rural France," Anderson said. "They never forget the Americans … they look to us as saviors."

Nearly 70 years, those people Anderson and Bowman helped save, honored them and their fellow soldiers.

"I'm flabbergasted," Anderson said. "I'm delighted to receive this medal, but I can't help but think of all the guys who deserve this medal who are still over there."

Although Bowman was a decorated soldier before today, he said the Legion of Honor medal stands out.

"It's the most beautiful medal that I've got. I've got probably 12, and it is the most beautiful one."

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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