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Local veterans receives French honor for WWII duties

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 6:42 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - A St. Joseph man who never set foot in France was today awarded that country’s highest honor—The French Legion of Honor.

During ceremonies at the Port Street Band Shell, Guillaume Lacroix, the Consul General of France in Chicago told the crowd that 2020 has been a bad year but that it was “nothing” compared to 1940′s France during the Nazi occupation. “The highest honor, the Legion of Honor is going to be bestowed upon two American heroes. I’m sure they will say they are no heroes and that’s how a hero is defined.”

One of the medals went to Staff Sargent Walter Kronbetter of St. Joseph who never set foot in France—but flew on a dozen air combat missions over France as a gunner. “One day I was flying weight, felt vibration, I look down there and that close to my toe is a great big hole. I wiggled my toes to see if I had all my toes.”

The Legion of Honor also went to Corp. Willis Bouma of Watervliet —a truck driver who remembers delivering water to hospitals in France during WWII. “I’m wearing it all the time. When I get back it’s coming off of this coat and going on another shirt.”

Both of the veterans are now 95 years old.

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