Lambert Gets Legion of Honor
A Seven Lakes man was among four American veterans from North Carolina who received the Legion of Honor Medal Tuesday in Raleigh.
Philippe Ardanaz, the consul-general of France, presented the medals during a Veterans Day ceremony at the N.C. Museum of History honoring World War II veterans for their role in the liberation of France,
Arnold Lambert, 88, accepted his medal and the honorary rank of Chevalier de la Lgion d'Honneur. He received the award along with Alfred Alvarez, 84, of Fayetteville; Mark R. Summer, 85, of Chapel Hill ; and Alfred Gagliano, 86, of Brevard.
France made them Chevaliers as a sign of gratitude for what they and other Americans did to free France from Nazi occupation.
"These former servicemen will be honored for their participation in liberating France in 19441945," the consulate announced in a statement released to the press.
On D-Day -- June, 6 1944 -- at H-Hour, Lambert was hitting Omaha Beach on the coast of Normandy.
"The first wave went in at six o'clock," Lambert said in a telephone interview as he prepared to leave for the ceremony. "The channel was so rough that it was hard to get in exactly where we wanted, when we wanted. I was in the first wave, which was in around six o'clock."
Lambert was a staff sergeant in the Army's 1st Division, the "Big Red One." Normandy was his third invasion, and he was wounded for the third time.
"I made three invasions," he said. "I was in the invasion of Africa at Algeria, was wounded there, got well enough and fought through Africa -- then, after Africa, the invasion of Sicily. Wounded again in Sicily, but got well enough and went back to England and prepared for D-Day."
His wounds were more serious this time, and eventually took him out of the war.
"After that, I went back to England and several other hospitals," Lambert said. "I was in convalescent hospitals a year after that, and then I was discharged. I have continued working with the military and being involved with them as a civilian."
He is a strong supporter of the 1st Division Museum and works hard to let modern soldiers know their sacrifices are appreciated.
"That's what I do," he said. "I go to Fort Riley every year and meet with the troops -- the guys from Iraq -- whenever they come back. I am in touch all the time with the guys in Afghanistan and Iraq. That just kind of keeps me busy."
He also works with other veterans to encourage them to record or write down their stories.
"One of the things I've tried to tell other veterans -- if we are to have a history of what happened -- they have to tell it," he said. "A lot say they don't want to talk about it, but I tell them that does a disservice to those guys that died -- you know, our friends that died there -- for us not to tell their story."
The French Embassy got in touch with Lambert and worked out with him and the others a time and place for the award.
"It means a lot," Lambert said. "Any time you help liberate a country -- give their home back to them -- I think it's great to be recognized for that. For the guys -- for so many of them that died there -- this honor also reflects on them and what they did. I think it is a good thing for the French to do. I am very proud to receive the honor, because it is one of their oldest and highest honors."
Napolon Bonaparte, first consul of the First Republic, established the Legion of Honor on May 19, 1802, as a recognition of merit for both civilians and soldiers. An award is made only upon direction of the president of the French Republic as Grand Master of the Order.
Lambert and the others joined such Americans as Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur who are among some 10,000 U.S. recipients.
On Nov. 11, 1988 -- the 80th anniversary of the end of World War I -- all surviving veterans of any allied country that fought on French soil were made Knights (Chevaliers) of the Lgion.
It is the highest decoration in France.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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