• Lauren Mitchell

Second World War Veterans receive the French Legion of Honour


LAUREN MITCHELL

The Ste. Anne de Bellevue Veterans’ Hospital was the site of the awards ceremony Thursday, November 20, in which 17 veterans were awarded the distinguished Knight of the French Legion of Honour.

Seventeen veterans received the Knight of the French Legion of Honour last Thursday, November 20 at the Sainte Anne de Bellevue’s Veterans’ Hospital in honour of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

The ceremony was presented by the “République Française” , and the medals were presented by the ambassador of France to Canada, His Excellency Phillipe Zeller and the Honourable Walter Natynczyk, Deputy Minister of Veterans’ The who were both also wearing their own Knight of the French Legion orders.

The history of the order goes back to May 19th of 1802, when Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to show his appreciation for not only the service of the soldiers, but also the service of the civilians. The Knight of the French Legion of Honour, one of five of the French Legion orders, has a wreath of laurel leaves beneath a five-armed cross, which cuts out a V-shape at the end of each arm.

Above the five-armed cross is a gold picture of the side of women’s head, surrounded by the words “République Française” . In the opening speeches of the ceremony, Zeller and Natynczyk expressed their gratitude towards all the attending veterans and thanked them for their service. Natynczyk was the first to speak, saying he was proud of what the honourees’ service did for our country today.

“Through all the major conflicts the world has known, Canada’s war efforts were extraordinary. You are brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen,” said Natynczyk. “On land, in the air and in the high seas. You helped the ally cause to ensure that Canada and France of today could remain a democratic and free society.

And for that, we owe you a great debt of gratitude.” Zeller described how he couldn’t imagine how difficult it could have been for the men to leave their families behind, and go fight for their country. He told the veterans how honoured he was to be standing in front of them, and reiterated how he felt they were very deserving of the French Legion.

LAUREN MITCHELL

Ambassador of France to Canada, His Excellency Philippe Zeller (second from left) and Deputy Minister of Veterans’ Walt Natynczyk (right) were on hand to present the medals.

After the introductory speeches, it was time to award the orders. Each veteran was announced alphabetically, and a short introduction told the stories of their lives. The medals were presented on a red pillow. Holding each award, Zeller announced his appreciation to the veteran, and then placed the medal pin on the recipient’s jacket. Natynczyk shook each veterans’ hand, and expressed his appreciation for their service 70 years following the allied invasion of Normandy.

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