France’s highest and most prestigious decoration, the French Legion of Honor, was awarded to 97-year-old veteran Gerald Powell of Horseshoe Bay for his service in World War II. The medal was presented to him by the 2nd Consul General of France ValÃ©rie Baraban during a ceremony Tuesday, November 2, at his home. The French Legion of Honor rewards civilians and soldiers who have accomplished great things in the service of the country.
Powell served in the 329th Medical Battalion, 104th Infantry, a unit known as the Timberwolves, during World War II.
“I am just one person from a unit who has done the same things as me, and these are to be enjoyed in the same way that I have been appreciated,” he said at the ceremony.
Powell and his unit entered Normandy, France, in September 1944, a few months after D-Day, but the war against Nazi forces was still well under way. He will spend 195 days in the European Theater and, along with thousands of other American and Allied personnel, will help bring down the Third Reich.
While it has been 76 years since Germany surrendered in World War II, many French people still honor the sacrifices made by American and Allied forces for their country and Europe.
Baraban told Powell and those gathered at the ceremony that France owes a great deal to the men and women who helped liberate the country from Nazi occupation. She recounted how Powell and the Timberwolves entered France and traveled across the country to the Netherlands and, ultimately, to Germany.
The Timberwolves stopped about 80 kilometers from Berlin before the fighting ended, but the unit faced atrocities including a concentration camp where the Germans also made the dreaded V-2 rockets which spread terror. over London and all of Great Britain.
âThanks to your courage and the sacrifice of thousands of young men like you, the Second World War, which had destroyed Europe for years, has finally come to an end – not only ended but won by the forces of good, the forces struggling. for freedom and democracy, âBaraban told Powell. âFrance expresses its eternal gratitude to young people like you who have freed us from barbarism. “
As one of the last remaining Timberwolves, Powell hopes people still appreciate the effort so many have made in the name of freedom.
“… Freedom is not free, and many people have made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and we should not forget them.”
Napoleon Bonaparte created the French Legion of Honor in 1802 to recognize servicemen and civilians who made a great contribution to France. It is not something easy to win, and those who are considered for it go through careful consideration. Powell’s daughter Julie Harris learned her father was eligible in February 2020 by the veterans group Timberwolves.
âIt took a lot of work to document everything,â she said.
Harris put together a 10-page document detailing his father’s service in Europe. She also got two references for the character of Powell. After several months, she submitted everything to the Consulate General of France in Houston.
âAnd they closed because of COVID for about three months,â Harris recalls.
When the consulate reopened, officials told him they had reviewed the documents on Powell and sent everything to France.
Earlier this year, Harris learned that French President Emmanuel Macron had signed Powell’s French Legion of Honor medal. On Tuesday, Baraban arrived at the Powells’ home to present the medal in front of his family and a few friends.
âYou know, I always knew my dad was a hero. I knew he was my whole life, âsaid Harris. âNow the others will know that too. “
For more on Powell’s service, see a 2014 DailyTrib.com article about his 2014 trip back to France and Europe, where he, his wife, daughter Julie and husband Curt Harris retraced his journey during WWII.