FULLER: 69 years later, France knights my grandfather

Legion of Honor

Sir William Fuller stands to receive his Chevalier Medal after being inducted into the French Legion of Honor. France bestowed the honor on Fuller and 10 other veterans in Jackson, Miss Sept. 24.

Jacob Fuller
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 17:12 PM.

In 1944, Vicksburg, Miss., native William Fuller spent his 19th birthday crossing the English Channel into Nazi-occupied France. Nearly 69 years later, France officially thanked him.

As Fuller's grandson, I have always seen him as a hero. So when my dad, Fred, told me the man I know as "Granddad" was going to be knighted by the French government, my response was, "It's about time."

Fuller joined 10 of his fellow World War II veterans at a ceremony in Jackson, Miss., Sept. 24, where French Consul General Denis Barbet presented the Legion of Honor awards to them and designated them in the Chevalier class of the legion in front of a crowd of more than 100 at the Old Capitol Museum.

Earlier this year, French President Francois Hollande bestowed France's Legion of Honor award to distinguished surviving Allied soldiers who helped liberate France from the invading Nazi forces during WWII. The award, created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is France's highest honor and can only be given by the nation's president.

The Legion of Honor was only bestowed on living Allied veterans, so most of the men who helped liberate France almost 70 years ago will never receive the thanks they deserved. For all of us who hold one of the living heroes dear, I would like to thank President Hollande for properly recognizing what those few surviving men gave to France in the face of such a great and evil foe.

And Hollande did it not a moment too soon.

There are barely 1 million living WWII veterans left in the U.S., about one-quarter of the number alive a decade ago. According to U.S. Veterans Administration, an average of more than 600 die every day. One of the honored Mississippi veterans, Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Gerald M. Campbell, died after President Hollande's declaration, but before he got the chance to receive his medal. His grandson, Ian Campbell, accepted the award on his behalf at the ceremony.



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