Yesterday, my Great Uncle Bill was presented with the French Legion of Honor (and made a "chevalier" or knight) by the French Ambassador to the United States. The ceremony took place at the D-Day memorial in Bedford County, Virginia, and while I couldn't be there, my Mom, Uncle and cousins were there representing the family.
Uncle Bill lives down in Roanoke, and we would visit him and my Great Aunt Nita in the summers and occasionally at Christmas. As a kid I had only the most basic knowledge of Bill's life...I mean, when you're 10 chances are you're not too interested in what your Great Uncle did with his life before you met him. But boy, did I miss out on a lot of good stories. Because as time has gone by I've learned more about Bill's time in the military during WWII and wowza. People tend to throw around the world hero these days, but he's the real deal.
Bill Overstreet flew P-51s out of England as part of the 357th Fighter Group (the Yoxford Boys), and participated in more than 100 missions. He flew over France and Germany, and was shot down three times and taken prisoner by the Germans at one point (although he escaped). Right there, you can't deny he's pretty badass.
But the best Uncle Bill story takes place over the skies of Paris, when he was involved in a dogfight with a German Messerschmidt. The German tried to shake him by flying under the Eiffel Tower. And it totally didn't work, because Bill followed him right through the arches and blew his butt out of the sky.
Here's an article about the ceremony (and recounting some of Bill's adventures), and the local news also ran a great piece about it that I tried several time to embed, but can't get to work. So check it out here!
And then take a minute to think about the risks and scarifies of all our nation's veterans and members of the armed services. Then go hug a veteran. But preferably someone you know, otherwise that could get kind of awkward.