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WE REMEMBER: PEARL HARBOR AND BEYOND

French thank Ohio WWII vets who helped liberate their nation

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    French Consul Stephen Knerly, Jr., awards John Stauffer, 91, the Medal of Knight of the Legion of Honor — France’s highest award — at the Ohio Veterans Home. Mr. Stauffer was wounded at Normandy in World War II.

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    Members of Lorain High School’s Junior ROTC present the colors during a French Legion of Honor ceremony in which six U.S. veterans from Ohio who helped liberate France during World War II were honored.

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    World War II veteran Charles Malachosky, 92, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, dons his Veterans of Foreign Wars hat and remains at attention.

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07n7legion

French Consul Stephen Knerly, Jr., awards John Stauffer, 91, the Medal of Knight of the Legion of Honor — France’s highest award — at the Ohio Veterans Home. Mr. Stauffer was wounded at Normandy in World War II.

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SANDUSKY — They fought in France to free that county from the Nazis. Some were wounded in the campaigns that led to Allied forces’ defeat of Germany in World War II.

And nearly seven decades after the war came to a close, the French government bestowed that country’s highest award Friday to the American soldiers as an expression of eternal gratitude for their efforts in liberating France from Adolf Hitler’s grip.

The French Medal of Knight of the Legion of Honor was awarded to Ohioans Charles Malachosky, 92, of Cuyahoga Falls,; John J. Turk, 89, of Novelty; Robert E. Zonneville, 88, of Mentor, and John W. Stauffer, 91, formerly of Mansfield, during a ceremony at the Ohio Veterans’ Home in Perkins Township.

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Two other honorees, John Weske, 90, of Sandusky, who died on July 3, and Richard R. Robb, 95, who passed away Wednesday in the veterans’ home, were awarded posthumously during the ceremony in Veterans’ Hall.

Robert McCurdy, who is married to Mr. Robb’s niece, accepted the medal on the late veteran’s behalf.

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World War II veteran Charles Malachosky, 92, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, dons his Veterans of Foreign Wars hat and remains at attention.

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“It’s really sad, because he was planning and looking forward to this and us being here with him,” said Mr. McCurdy, a Marine veteran of Vietnam. “He said he didn’t really want to accept the medal for himself, but for the soldiers who didn’t make it back. He was truly a member of the Greatest Generation. He had 95 good years.”

The Legion of Honor, founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, rewards extraordinary military and civil accomplishments in the service of France.

France began recognizing American veterans in 2004, on the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, for their assistance to the French side. The United States joined the fight against Germany after Japan, an Axis partner of Germany, bombed Pearl Harbor in what was then the American territory of Hawaii 72 years ago today.

Mr. Robb, a west Cleveland native who lived in Las Vegas and Shelby, Ohio, before moving into the Ohio Veterans Home, served overseas from January to October, 1944, and saw action in Normandy, northern France, the Ardennes, the Rhineland, and central Europe. He was wounded by shrapnel in Normandy in August, 1944, and received the Purple Heart.

After the war, Mr. Robb enlisted in the Air Force, for which he served four more years in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

“He was very humble and didn’t want any recognition at all for any of this,” said his niece, Karen McCurdy. “He was excited to have the ceremony for the sake of the men who weren’t around and couldn’t get this award. But he didn’t live that long.”

French Consul General Stephen Knerly, Jr., awarded the medals and thanked the recipients for their service to his country.

07n7legion2-1

Members of Lorain High School’s Junior ROTC present the colors during a French Legion of Honor ceremony in which six U.S. veterans from Ohio who helped liberate France during World War II were honored.

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“These people are real heroes and they are so often unsung heroes,” Mr. Knerly said after the ceremony. “The World War II generation doesn’t talk about the war so much, but now they are starting to talk.”

Mr. Stauffer, who lives in the Ohio Veterans Home, served in the 83rd Infantry Division and was stationed in Europe from June, 1944, to November, 1945. He was wounded in Normandy in August, 1944.

Mr. Zonneville, who will turn 89 next month, was a staff sergeant in the 8th Infantry Division and participated in battles in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and Germany. He was wounded at St. Lo in July, 1944, and again in northern France in September, 1944. He went on to to become an executive for a trucking company.

“I was very fortunate. I am very proud of my service,” he said.
According to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, there are more than 49,000 military veterans in Ohio who served during World War II.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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