One of Dawson County’s own was among 10 World War II veterans from the Southeastern United States honored last week in Atlanta.
Gene Lambert, 86, was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest accolade, in a ceremony Jan. 28 at the state capitol. Pierre Vimont, French ambassador to the United States, presided.
The ceremony comes some 65 years after the invasion of Normandy. Lambert, a staff sergeant with the Army’s 35th Infantry Division, landed at Omaha Beach on July 5, 1944.
“It feels very good,” Lambert said of receiving the honor. “They haven’t forgotten what we did for their country, and they want us to realize that.”
An official with the Consulate General of France in Atlanta echoed the remark.
“The ultimate goal is to show our gratitude for these men,” said Claire Collobert, spokeswoman for the French consulate general.
Collobert added that the Jan. 28 gathering was one of great importance, but only scratches the surface.
“We wish we could do more, because most of the men who went to France paid the highest price to fight for freedom of our country,” she said.
Collobert said the Legion of Honor is “the highest honor of distinction that France has.”
“In general, World War II veterans who helped in the liberation of France [from Nazi Germany] are the highest priority for receiving this award,” she said.
Lambert, an Atlanta native, has lived in Dawson County for four years. He and his wife, Joyce, found out he would be honored a couple months earlier.
“They contacted us and let us know they were going to do this,” he said, adding that he was recognized in a similar event for the 45th anniversary of France’s liberation.
Lambert’s military service began in 1943, when he was sent to California for training. There, he became a part of the 320th Regiment of the 35th Division.
Nearly a year later, they left for England, arriving a month before D-Day.
His division was later involved in the infamous Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, where he was wounded, as well as several other major battles in the European Theater.