Legion of Honor: Ceremony in San Francisco
On February 9th, 2016, Consul general of France in San Francisco, Pauline Carmona, presented the medal of the Legion of Honor to two US veterans who fought alongside France during WWII: Joseph PETRUCCI and Henry KALMBACH. The ceremony took place at the French consulate in San Francisco.
"Today, it is a special Day.
Today, we are celebrating two heroes whose courage, faith and dedication contributed – more than 70 years ago – to defend and preserve the independence of France and to save our common values: freedom, tolerance, democracy.
I would like to extend the tribute today to all your fellow soldiers during the Second World War, especially to all of those who did not make it back to their country and families.
You were born on April 20th, 1922 in Winthrop, Massachusets.
You were 20 years old when you joined the US Army.
As a wire chief for telephone and telegraph, you were part of the Normandy Invasion on D-Day, where you have been wounded, and part of the Northern France campaign, taking a decisive part to the liberation of France, and Europe, from the Nazis.
For your actions, you were awarded, among others, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign medal with two Bronze Service stars, the American campaign medal, the Good conduct medal and the World War II Victory medal.
Henry KALMBACH was born on March 16th, 1919, in North Dakota.
He was 22 years old when he joined the US Army.
As a gunner of the 32nd Armored Regiment, he was part of the Normandy Invasion and the Northern France campaign.
Wounded in November 1944, he was awarded, among others, the Purple Heart medal, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign medal with two Bronze Service stars, the American campaign medal and the World War II Victory medal.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These heroes did all of this far away from their home, from their beloved family, from their friends. They are heroes.
It is almost impossible for us to imagine how much courage and bravery it must have required to cross the ocean and to fight over Europe as you did.
Courage and bravery are precisely the qualities that Napoleon wanted to reward while creating the Legion of Honor in 1802. Your courage and your bravery are precisely the reason why the President of French Republic has decided to award you the highest French recognition.
General Eisenhower told you: “the eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you”.
You did your duty. You said to Eisenhower: “you can count on us”.
And you saved France and Europe from hell. You saved people you didn’t even know.
I am here, today, to tell you that the people of France have not forgotten. Their children and grandchildren have not forgotten. France will never forget.
We, the French people, know exactly what we owe to the American people, to the US Army, to the US Navy, to the US Air Force, to the US Marines, to the US coats guards, to the men and women who spent days and nights in American factories and shipyards to build the most powerful military force in history, an Armada for Liberty.
We know exactly what we owe to you personally.
Thanks to you and thanks to America, people of my generation were allowed to grow up in a free country.
On behalf of the President of the French Republic, I want to express the deep, sincere and eternal gratitude of the French people.
On this note, and 70 years after the D-Day and the liberation of France, permit me to quote from the French President, who said:
“In France, there are many white crosses where lie some of your comrades who did not return to the United States. Know that their memory is cherished by all the people of France. The sacrifice made by you and your comrades was not in vain. If I am here before you, it is because men like you did their duty.”