“Your sacrifices will never be forgotten”
WINDSOR» The five Army veterans sat patiently, waiting to be honored for their action in battle more than 70 years ago.
Two sat in wheelchairs, one had a cane propped between his knees.
The event that brought the five Northern Colorado residents together, along with a crowd of about 100 family members, friends and well-wishers, was a ceremony conducted by the French government to honor the soldiers for helping liberate France from Nazi control in 1944 during World War II.
Jeffrey Richards, honorary consul of France in Colorado, pinned a medal on the chest of each one denoting that they had been bestowed the rank of chevalier (knight) in the National Order of the Legion of Honor. It is France’s highest honor, according to the consulate.
After the ceremony, Loveland resident Oliver Lee Bashor said what almost every old veteran tells a reporter, or a grandchild, who asks about his service: “All we did was do what we were supposed to do and do the best you can.”
That, however, is not what the people conducting the ceremony said. “These men were the heart of the Greatest Generation,” said master of ceremonies Wesley West, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, in reference to the book by Tom Brokaw.
Army Col. Scott Sherman, chief of the joint staff of the Colorado National Guard, also spoke at the event, held in the gym of the National Guard’s Windsor Readiness Center.
“I’m honored to thank these heroes sitting here today for their courage and devotion to the great cause of freedom,” he said. “You sacrificed and really forged peace and made the United States and Western Europe prosperous and free.
“Your sacrifices will never be forgotten,” Sherman said.
On behalf of the French Republic, Richards gave a presentation speech in French to each soldier as he pinned on the five-pointed star suspended from a bright red ribbon. Then he kissed each man on both cheeks.
Fort Collins resident Le Moyne Anderson said “merci” after receiving his medal. Richard Mann of Milliken, who had been cracking jokes before the ceremony started, did him better with a hearty “merci beaucoup” when his time came.
After the ceremony, Joe Hoberman of Loveland acknowledged the honor with humility.
“I feel that I accept this honor on behalf of the buddies that are still in France,” the decorated infantryman said, “and for the many more that just didn’t live long enough to receive this honor. So on their behalf, I accept it.
“I feel privileged,” he said.