Minot WWII veteran receives France’s highest honor
World War II veteran Lynn Aas said he was caught by surprise when a package from the Consulate General of France in Chicago arrived for him a few days ago. Inside was the French Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest honor awarded by the president of France.
“I was flabbergasted, and I was very humbled and appreciative,” said Aas when he opened the package and saw the medal.
In a letter to Aas, accompanying the medal, the Consul General Vincent Floreani, wrote: “Through this award, the French government pays tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France and Western Europe. 73 years ago, you gave your youth to France and the French people. Many of your fellow soldiers did not return but they remain in our hearts.
“Thanks to your courage and to our American friends and allies, France and Europe have been living in peace for the past seven decades. You saved us. We will never forget. For us, the French people, you are a hero. Gratitude and remembrance are forever in our souls.”
The letter goes on to say the award was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, and “it is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.”
The insignia of the Legion of Honor is a five-armed Maltese asterick, topped by an oak and laurel wreath. The central white disc is surrounded by oak and laurel branches. One side features the effigy of the Republic (head of Marianne) with the inscription “Republique francaise” (French Republic). On the reverse side, there are two tricolor flags and the inscription of the Order’s motto, “Honneur et Patrie” (Honor and Fatherland), and the date of its creation, “29 Floreal Year X” (19 May 1802).
“This is an acknowledgment to those who actually participated in the war itself, like those who carried a machine gun, carried a rifle or were in the belly of a B-17. They were on the front line,” Aas said. “There aren’t many of them alive that walked from Bastogne up to the German line and slept in the snowbank for 50 days. I happen to be one of those people,” he said.
Aas, who turned 96 on June 4, entered the Army in 1942 and fought as a rifleman in the historic Battle of the Bulge, serving with the 17th Airborne Division of the 193rd Airborne Infantry in the European Theatre. He received both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Three years ago, Aas had the honor of being the official representative of the 17th Airborne Division at the 70th annual reenactment of the historic Battle of the Bulge in the town of Bastogne, Belgium.
Aas will have another honor coming up shortly. He was selected the grand marshal for this year’s North Dakota State Fair Parade to be held on Saturday, July 22. On that day he will be riding in a red and white Pontiac convertible owned by Vance Castleman of Minot.
As for the special medal from France, it will be officially presented to Aas at a ceremony being planned for a later date in Minot. A French official will make the presentation. Sen. John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer are planning to attend the ceremony.