Robert Wortman was barely 19 when he joined the Army in 1944 as a scout.
While fighting in France against Germany just one year later, Wortman was wounded by German holdouts and his leg had to be amputated.
More than 70 years later, on June 2, Wortman was presented with the French Legion of Honor for his efforts to liberate France and, by extension, Western Europe during WWII.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein presented Wortman, now 92, with the medal in a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Goldfein had nothing but praise for Wortman.
“There are not many words I can offer here to tell what an honor it is for those of us privileged to wear the uniform today, who have taken the torch that you handed to us, and be able to present you with this medal for your service so long ago,” Goldfein said.
Wortman returned home to the United States after he was wounded, but he quickly showed that his injury would not prevent him from serving his country.
Wortman overcame the significant wound to serve 32 years as an Air Force civilian employee at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.
The medal was not the first awarded to Wortman. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while recovering from his wounds in 1945.
However, the ceremony was a first for Wortman, according to Ann Wortman, his daughter-in-law.
While the medal arrived in the mail for Wortman in 2015, there was not a presentation or ceremony. In order to change that, Ann, who herself is employed at the Air Force Academy, reached out to academy officials to see if a ceremony would be possible, according to the Air Force.
During the ceremony, Goldfein said he was honored to present the medal to Wortman.
“Today, when you look at the fight we are engaged in with violent extremism, you can’t look beyond France to find a better partner,” he said. “They would not be standing shoulder to shoulder with us today had it not been for what you and your brothers and sisters in arms did all those years ago for the liberation.”
Senior reporter Stephen Losey contributed to this report.
Noah Nash is a rising senior at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. At school, he is the editor in chief of the Collegian Magazine and the digital director of the Collegian, Kenyon's newspaper.