We baby boomers, in our later years, have become enchanted with the Greatest Generation, which is ironic since it was the generation we yelled at when it told us to cut our hair, support the war in Vietnam or get a job. They were our parents, of course, and as with most kids, once we got older, we got more perspective and, if it wasn’t too late, we could honor them accordingly.
For two Minnesotans — and their families — that day came today at the Capitol when Walter Halloran of Rochester and Merrill Burgstahler of Minnetonka received the Legion of Honor medal from the French consul. Up until fairly recently, the award went only to World War I vets.
Usually, families apply (pdf) for the 100 or so medals which are given out each year in the U.S.
Walter Halloran’s (picture above) story was told in the Pioneer Press today. “Don’t I get a kiss,” he said after the medal was pinned on his uniform. He got a hug.
Merrill Burgstahler (below) got to tell his own story. He said the award was the second he’s received from the French people. “My first one was from a boy pouring cider for the troops,” he said. “He also gave us a pair of wooden shoes.” (Listen to his speech)
These awards, of course, symbolize more than just the soldiers who receive them. Thousands of others also sacrificed in the liberation of France.
These moments also give us a little insight into modern-day France, too. France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, awarded his first medal in June…
… to Barbra Streisand for performing in a concert.