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Williamsport WWII veteran receives Legion of Honor

December 02, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

WILLIAMSPORT -- World War II veteran Wilbur J. Myers had more on his mind Wednesday than receiving France's highest honor.

"I'm thinking about my tank driver who didn't make it and the other guys who didn't make it," Myers said. "They're the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Representatives from the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., awarded Myers the Legion of Honor during a ceremony Wednesday at the American Legion in Williamsport. The medal was presented to Myers for his military service in France during World War II.

Myers, 86, said he was a member of the 692nd Tank Destroyer Battalion in Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army.

The tank destroyers -- armed with a 90 mm cannon -- were used for many things in addition to hunting German tanks. Myers said soldiers in his battalion also used the vehicles to knock out pillboxes and enemy observation posts.

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"We fought in Holland and Germany and France and Belgium," Myers said before receiving the medal. "The fighting was intense, but we had them on the run."

Myers said he was humbled to receive the Legion of Honor because the French still appreciate the sacrifice that Americans made to free Europe from Nazi oppression.

"After 65 years, they didn't forget," Myers said. "If you live under tyranny for three or four years, you know what freedom is all about."

Michel Schaffhauser, consul general of France at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., used the ceremony to thank all Americans who served during World War II.

"We always remember the price," he said, "The price: 60,000 American soldiers laid to rest."

Schaffhauser compared the United States saving France in World Wars I and II to France aiding America during the War of Independence.

After Schaffhauser pinned the medal on Myers' shirt, they drank a champagne toast and Myers led the room, which was filled with about 60 of his friends and family members, in the singing of "God Bless America."

Myers said he has endured a bout with cancer and surgeries to his brain and heart.

"I'm blessed. I had a lot of things happen to me, but they were always able to patch me up," Myers said. "I'm just a little corporal who loves his country and did his duty."

Marie-Claire Lafon-Gabriel, an assistant to the consul general, said the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., has awarded the Legion of Honor to about 100 Americans over the last five years.

The Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize excellent civilian or military conduct.

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