NORMAN — A smile spread across a Norman veteran’s face Tuesday afternoon as he and two other Oklahoma veterans received France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor, for their service in World War II.
W.M. Lynch stood unwavering as Sujiro Seam, consul general of France to the states of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, pinned the medal on Lynch’s vest in the Blue Room at the State Capitol.
The Legion of Honor is the highest honor France has to bestow on civilians and military personnel who perform acts of great service to France, said Grant Moak, French consul for Oklahoma.
Seam listed each of the veterans’ accomplishments before awarding them the Legion of Honor speaking with pride about France and America’s long-standing alliance.
“These ceremonies are my favorite because we can find no stronger, no more powerful, single-evidence testimony of strength of the French-American alliance,” Seam said.
France and America first joined together during the American Revolutionary War against England.
“Since then, this alliance has delivered its full force when France, my country, needed it most during the first and the second world wars. Those were times, in 1917, in 1944, where the American boys responded to the call, landed in the soil of France singing, ‘Lafayette, we are here.’”
Seam said a few years ago, France decided to award the French Legion of Honor, which was created by Napoleon in 1802 when he was serving the French Republic, to all World War II veterans.
“It was no surprise to me, that we find so many of them here in the United States of America,” he said. “Today, we honor three of you.”
On behalf of the Oklahoma Senate, Sen. Rob Standridge recognized Lynch and his fellow veterans with a citation for his courageous acts in WWII.
“It’s such an honor to be here and recognize these brave soldiers,” Standridge said.
Rep. Marian Cooksey also recognized veterans Eldon Sullivan and Warren Peters on behalf of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
“This day, we are honestly introducing our heroes,” Cooksey said. “I just want to say thank you to all the military that are here and say a special thank you to all that you’ve done and all you have given up to protect our country.”
Before the ceremony began, Moak recognized the three veterans’ families, members of the military and several others Tuesday. Oklahoma City University students sang the national anthems of the United States and France for the occasion.
Lynch described the ceremony in one word: “beautiful.”
His wife, Betty, daughter, Rosalynn Wade, and grandchildren Rachael, Christopher and Amy Wade joined Lynch for the ceremony.
Lynch said the men who really deserve recognition were the military men who attended the ceremony and those men and women who are serving their country today.
He said they are the ones giving their lives for this work out on the battlefield today.
Lynch was drafted at age 18, joining the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division on Aug. 31, 1943. He was a heavy artillery operator for the 2nd Battalion, arriving in Normandy on June 13, 1944, to face the enemy on Cotentin Peninsula.
He participated in the capture of Cherbourg at the end of June and took part in the capture of Saint-Lo in July. In September 1944, his regiment was the first to penetrate the Siegfried Line into Germany.
On Sept. 22, 1944, Lynch received the Purple Heart Medal for injuries he sustained in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. He has also received the European African Middle Easter Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
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