LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Beaches are often associated with peace and
escape; tranquility provided by soothing waves and gentle breezes.
Golden sunshine and clean sand between the toes are considered
cure-alls to most worries associated with the hustle and bustle of
modern day woes.
For many men, however, those are not the
emotions or the memories that linger of the beach.
Instead of tranquility, racking machine-gun fire, blood and searing
shrapnel; instead of soothing waves, shallow graves and air thick
with sulfuric smoke from spent artillery shells.
the scene in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, “D-Day”: Stage to
the largest amphibious assault in recorded history, and the
beginning of the liberation of France during the German occupation.
In the 71 years since that day, many of the brave men who fought
and survived D-day have passed away, but the legacy is commemorated
through those still living and the efforts to recognize their
valiant service through awards.
Fourteen World War II
veterans from Florida who fought in the D-Day assault, or who were
directly involved with the liberation of France, were awarded the
French Legion of Honor, France's most prestigious decoration, to
honor and commemorate exceptional service.
The honorees were
Morris Edelstein, George Greenburg, Bob Inman, Joseph Klein, Murray
Landers, Walt Lipiner, Jay Lavin, William Martini, Jesse Pearl, Sid
Schildkraut, Wilfred Schonwetter, Seymour Seclow, Julian Wohfeld and
Since 2004, resulting from an initiative
started by French President Jacques Chirac, the French government
has presented the Legion of Honor award to U.S. veterans who fought
on behalf of allied forces during the landing on Normandy beach and
aided in the liberation of France during the German occupation.
“We have to realize that what many of us know as ‘D-Day' was
simply ‘Tuesday' for these men,” said Rear Adm. Cynthia Thebaud,
commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Two. “They fought bravely,
they fought gallantly and ensured liberty, equality and fraternity.”
Bob Inman, formerly a signalman in the U.S. Navy, was aboard
armored transport ship SS Sea Porpoise during the landing on Omaha
and Utah beach.
“It's simply amazing,” said Inman. “It feels
nice to be recognized, not only for myself, but for my daughter and
for my wife. It is so different now than then. Now there may be a
brief minute on the news or a short article in the paper, but a long
time ago, when we freed France, it was absolute bedlam. Regardless
though, I am thankful.”
World War II veterans, roughly 1.2
million in their 80s and 90s, are dying at a rate of more than 400 a
day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Of those
remaining, 95,000 are living in South Florida, which has one of the
highest concentrations of WWII veterans in the country. Roughly
1,400 veterans in South Florida have been recognized with the Legion
Morris Edelstein, formerly a technician fourth
class in the U.S. Army, participated directly in the landing on
Normandy and in other campaigns throughout World War II.
“Really, you can't be compensated,” said Edelstein. “The things that
happened that day ... I left my friends there, but I still see them.
This is for them, and it means more than I can really describe.”
Philippe L�trilliart, consul general of France, addressed the
awardees with admiration and gratitude.
merci,” said L�trilliart. “I can assure you, beyond all assurances,
that France will never forget what you did for us.”
Legion of Honor ceremony was one of the last events of the week
during Fleet Week Port Everglades. Sailors, Marines and Coast
Guardsmen from five ships are participated in the 25th annual Fleet
Week Port Everglades, a weeklong celebration and collaboration with
the community of South Florida.
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Wolpert
Comment on this article