French representatives, on March 10, honored three Boston-area veterans for their service during World War II, reported The Boston Globe. Former U.S. Army personnel James Baker, Leo De Filippo and Michael Maglio were nominated to the Legion of Honor, receiving the rank of chevalier.
"Their struggle and efforts occurred at an extremely hard and dark time in both French and European history," Valéry Freland, the Consul General of France in Boston, said soon after presenting the awards. "By celebrating their courage this morning, both the French Republic and the people of France remember the American soldiers who helped them recover their freedom, their pride, and their honor."
Baker, 91, worked as a military truck driver in southern France during the conflict. De Filippo, 96, helped operate a power plant and Maglio, 95, was a cook.
The ceremony took place at the Chelsea Soldiers Home in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
"For me, the real heroes are in France," Maglio said in an interview with a local ABC affiliate. "My friends, my brother friends, I will always remember them."
The Legion of Honor is France's highest award, reported USA Today. Famed military leader Napoléon Bonaparte established the honor in 1802. More than 10,000 American artists, servicemembers and thinkers have received the award over the years. A large portion of these recipients were World War II veterans who helped liberate France from Nazi Germany.
Many feel the award strengthens the relationship between the U.S. and France.
"It shows the enormous gratitude of the French Republic to Americans," Lawrence Kritzman, a professor of comparative literature at Dartmouth College and Legion of Honor recipient, told the publication. "There are times in the media of misrepresentation of the relationship and even in the greatest of relationships there are moments of disappointment, but it doesn't mean that the sense of recognition and gratitude is not there."