PARKERSBURG - A Hockingport veteran who was a paratrooper in World War II was presented with the Knight of the French Legion of Honor on Saturday as thanks for his service in Europe.
Lawrence Jeffers, 89, received the medal from his grandson Joshua Hultgren, a Civil Air Patrol cadet, at American Legion Post 15 in Parkersburg during a special ceremony. The medal is the highest honor given to a non-French citizen.
"I was surprised and excited when I was told about this," said Jeffers. "It's a surprised honor that wasn't expected."
Photo by Jolene Craig
At left, Lawrence Jeffers, 89, of Hockingport, a World War II paratrooper who landed in France on D-Day, is presented with the Knight of the French Legion of Honor by his grandson Joshua Hultgren, a Civil Air Patrol cadet, on Saturday during a ceremony at American Legion Post 15 in Parkersburg.
In August, Jeffers and the American Legion Post 15 was informed that the president of the French Republic appointed him a "Chevalier" of the Legion of Honor.
"It's such a rare award that we didn't expect it to be true," said his wife Shirley Jeffers.
Jeffers served in France and Western Europe during the war with the U.S. Army's 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He parachuted into Normandy, France, hours before the main D-Day invasion.
The United States has awarded Jeffers several honors due to his service. In September 1944, he was awarded the first of two Purple Hearts with the second in February 1945. He received the Silver Star in June 1944 and a Bronze Star in June 1947.
"This really was surprising for us to receive the letter from the French Consul," said Ed Armstrong with the American Legion Post 15. "As far as we have been told, there is only one (other) person having been given this award in West Virginia."
Armstrong said that it is not often the post can honor a man of such stature.
"It's very, very seldom that a military man gets a medal from another country," he said.
According to a letter from Graham Paul, consul general of France in Chicago, the award is given by the president of the French Republic as a "sign of France's infinite gratitude and appreciation for your personal and precious contribution to the United States' decisive role in the liberation...during World War II.
"This outstanding distinction is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France. It is also a sign of true gratitude for your invaluable contribution to the liberation of France during these difficult times in the History of our nation."
The Legion of Honor was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit. Since it's inception, 74,384 people have received the Knight of the French Legion of Honor, according to the award's website.
"My fellow countrymen will never forget your sacrifice. Their children and grandchildren are as proud of your courageous actions as can be your own children and grandchildren," Paul said in the letter.