TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A 94-year-old World War II veteran from Indiana has received France’s highest military honor for his wartime service.
France Consul General Guillaume Lacroix bestowed the Legion of Honor medal Sunday on Jimmie H. Royer. Napoleon Bonaparte established the honor in 1802.
Hundreds of people gathered at an American Legion post in Terre Haute to watch the award ceremony, the Tribune-Star reported.
Lacroix said he was excited to honor "a son of America's greatest generation."
Three St. Louis-area World War II veterans in their 90s who played roles in liberating France from Nazi occupation have been given France’s Legion of Honor.
"It is a generation that changed a lot of America for the better," Lacroix said. "But is also a generation that changed everything in Europe. Without the bravery, the dedication, without the courage and the heroism and the sacrifice of Mr. Royer's generation, the French flag would be history."
The Terre Haute man served as a gunner in the 106th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, taking part in campaigns in Rhineland, Germany, and Normandy, northern France, in 1944. He was wounded on Oct. 27, 1944, on the Lorraine front and honorably discharged in August 1945.
For 75 years, Royer said that he has cherished his memories of the French people and their gratitude after liberation.
"When we would go and liberate a town, the people would have a joy in their eyes and a happiness," he said. "They were so happy. When I went over there I wondered, 'What am I doing here?' I found out, but I remember the laughter and them passing the bottle around."
He joined the "Purple Heart Battalion," the 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up mostly of Japanese-Americans.
Along with the Legion of Honor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett declared Sunday as "Jimmie H. Royer Day," in the city.
Royer said the honor still feels unbelievable.
“It blows my mind,” Royer said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought this would be happening to me. It’s the greatest honor that could ever be bestowed on me.”