Posted: Sep 12, 2013 5:52 PM by Steven Albritton
Updated: Sep 12, 2013 7:23 PM
Eight Louisiana World War II veterans are now members of the National Order of the Legion of Honour. It is France's highest military award. Originally created by Napoleon Bonaparte, the award is given out to reward extraordinary accomplishments and outstanding service to France. Several years ago France made Americans who fought in France or helped liberate the country eligible to receive the honor.
Breaux Bridge resident, Sergeant Joseph Latiolais, says his time during World War II was long and hard. After being drafted just days after his 18th birthday, he spent 125 consecutive days on the front lines. Now, the country he helped liberate wanted to recognize what he had done.
"I didn't know it was the highest medal before yesterday when they told me that. It was a surprise and it was very touching to get a medal like this," Latiolais said.
When he first heard about the award he thought it was a hoax.
"I thought it was a gimmick. I didn't want to answer the phone because I thought they were playing a joke on me and it wasn't real stuff."
On September 11th, he traveled to New Orleans with his family to receive the medal. He says it was a very touching ceremony but still thinks back to friends he lost while at war. Latiolais remembers his time overseas vividly. German machine gun troops destroyed a boat he had just got off. Unfortunately, men on a boat nearby weren't so lucky when the machine guns were pointed at them. Latiolais recalls circling back to take out the machine gunners.
"I crept up and I knocked out the machine gun with a hand grenade. They were so excited to shoot at the boat they didn't pay much attention to me crawling back on them," he said.
In the end, even though his time during the war was difficult, Sir Joseph Latiolais was happy he was able to serve.
"I'm very glad I did it for the Frenchman and the Americans. I'm glad I did it for my country and my people."