STILLWATER (WCCO) — In a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, spilling over with guests, 95-year-old Bob Webber was at the center of attention.
“I was in the mortar platoon, I done everything,” Webber explained.
He was reminiscing about his service during World War II when he served as a paratrooper in the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
“Once we hit the ground we were nothing but foot soldiers, infantry, yes,” said Webber.
In August of 1944, the liberation of Europe had just begun. That’s when Webber’s parachute regiment was assigned the task of jumping in behind Nazi lines, to continue the American assault.
The mission was called “Operation Dragoon.” Webber and his fellow paratroopers landed near the small town of Le Muy. From there, his mortar unit would battle German forces, in hopes of freeing the Nazi’s grip.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service, Merci,” said French Consul General, Guillaume.
On a table filled with Webber’s service photographs sat a shadow box lined with patches and medals. And along with the Purple Heart for being wounded in action, he would get one more precious medal.
But this one was soon to be bestowed by the country he fought to save.
“It’s an honor,” smiled Webber.
Fighting back tears, his face beaming with pride, Webber was about to be pinned with the French Legion of Honor. It is France’s highest tribute to service by a citizen or foreign soldier.
Consul General Guillaume Lacroix performed the ceremony on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron, and called it “long overdue.”
“Thanks to America and thanks to Mr. Webber. Kids like him were only 19-years-old then. France is now at peace and Europe is united,” said Lacroix.
And in true French fashion, the ceremony concluded with an honor deserving of a toast. They all raised a glass of sweet champagne to soothe the bitter memories of war.
Webber added that God willing, he would like to attend the 75th D-day anniversary in June 2019 in France.