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Nearly 60 years after he participated in a key World War II battle, Guadalupe Flores re-ceived one of Belgium's most prestigious awards.
The Toledo barber beamed yesterday when Belgian Brig. Gen. Dany E. Van de Ven presented him with the Belgian Fourragere, an ornamental rope that can be awarded only by the country's king.
Mr. Flores, 80, already had received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for serving in the 501st Parachute Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division.
During the presentation, General Van de Ven praised the role that American soldiers, including Mr. Flores, played in repelling the German Army's final assault during the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Belgium.
He said an estimated 400,000 people received the recognition, which was decreed in 1945, but many Americans had returned to the United States before the announcement was issued.
Afterward, unless they asked for the award, they did not physically receive it.
Mr. Flores said Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber, who hosted the presentation in Government Center, contacted the Belgian embassy after he inquired about the award.
General Van de Ven said the award to Mr. Flores is the first such award delivered personally to someone in the area, and it is only the second award he has presented this year.
Mr. Flores, who enlisted days after his 18th birthday, said after the battle, he and his fellow soldiers "felt like we had done our job."
"We thought we were fighting a war to end all wars," he said, "but it didn't happen."
He does not plan to go back to the site for a 60th reunion later this year. "I'm afraid it will bring back memories that will break me," he said. "I lost a lot of good friends."
Donald Halm said Mr. Flores, a fellow member of the American Legion's Przybylski Post 642, is "a real good guy."
Sometimes, he said, Mr. Flores mixes customer service with memories of the military.
"Whenever I get a haircut, he always shows me the different paraphernalia he's got," Mr. Halm said.
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