French honor NC vets 70 years after WWII fighting
Posted February 20, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.