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French honor NC vets 70 years after WWII fighting

Posted February 20, 2014

— Seven decades after they helped liberate France from Nazi occupation, 14 World War II veterans from North Carolina were recognized Thursday with France's highest honor.

Army Cpl. Joseph Collie, 88, said receiving the Legion of Honor medal from French Consul General Denis Barbet was worth the wait.

"I have a great respect for France, and this is a very important medal, and I'm delighted to get it," said Collie, who was just 19 when he first set foot on French soil. A squad commander in the 397th Infantry Regiment, he marched from the Mediterranean port of Marseilles northward through eastern France, over the Vosges Mountains to Germany, where he helped liberate Stuttgart as well. 

The French government has been working for years to research foreign soldiers who helped free their country during World War II. As their medals were awarded, each veteran's acts of bravery were read aloud, followed by thunderous applause from family and friends.

"I wish to express our deepest gratitude for what you did to liberate France and Europe in 1944 and '45," Barbet said.

The pomp and circumstance from two countries included a special thank-you from Gov. Pat McCrory.

"We love you, and we will never forget you," McCrory told the veterans. "We will keep teaching the history of what you've done so this generation and the next generation and the generation after that will never take our freedom for granted."

North Carolina played a prominent role and paid a heavy price in World War II, losing nearly 9,000 soldiers along the way.

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  • carolinej Feb 21, 2014

    Congrats to all of the honorees, even if it's so late in coming! I add my thanks for your service also.

  • Badexample Feb 21, 2014

    Is there some reason you can't tell us the names of the other 13 honored NC veterans?

  • A person Feb 21, 2014

    Thank God someone is honoring them, Barack never would even think of honoring anyone that is not on welfare or food stamps

  • Michael Berthold Feb 21, 2014

    Congratulations on an honor deserved.

    On another note, someone keeps posting on how people of this generation have been less than honorable with their service and that it is a problem with this generation. So I decided to do a little research.

    According the DoD, 2.6 million people served in Vietnam combat theater of operations. 9 million total served in all branches of the military in all theaters during the same period (64-73). Back in 1995 the CDC stated that slightly under 2 million (1,700,000) of the actual combat vets were still with us. Thanks to all of those who have served..... Now for the kicker for this generation of honorable people. In the 1990 Census, 13,450,000 people claimed to have served in the Vietnam combat area. Hmmmmm.... Is it just me or is there something wrong with that honorable generation that 6-7 times more people than actual did serve in theater claim to have done so and nearly 60% more than all that served during the time frame?

  • Terry Watts Feb 21, 2014

    Pretty awesome!!! Thanks for your service to the Nation, Mr. Collie!

  • KnowsItAll Feb 21, 2014

    Joe's a neighbor! way to go Joe!! congratulations.

  • lec02572 Feb 21, 2014

    Congratulations to these men. I almost tear up reading the stories of these men and the sacrifice this generation made for not just this country, but the world. We are losing this generation. Please thank them and remember them in your prayers.

  • rickandlinda88 Feb 21, 2014

    may godbless and always keep these brave men.(living and deceased).who served so bravely..this truely was and is "the greatest generation!"

  • Union Cavalry Feb 21, 2014

    The 14 honored veterans--Patriots, Heroes & Men of Honor says it all!

    A Vietnam Veteran

  • Greg Boop Feb 20, 2014

    Congratulations, Joseph Collie. Well deserved. Thank you for your service to our country. You are part of the greatest generation.