GALENA, Ohio (WCMH) — He has always been an American hero because of his service to our country, but now he’s also a French hero for his courage in World War II.
John Day Jr. makes his home in central Ohio and was honored with the highest medal given in France.
“On behalf of the French President, on behalf of the French people, on behalf of our families, merci beaucoup, thank you for your service,” said Guillaume Lacroix, who is the consul general of France to the midwest.
It was part of the ceremony to recognize the 97-year-old Day with the highest honor given in France, the French Legion of Honor.
“I got the medal which is a great honor to receive, you know,” said Day.
It’s an honor only the President of France can award, but today Lacroix did the honor on behalf of the country’s president.
“Mr. John Day, you are now officially a French hero,” said Lacroix. “A hero of two nations.”
Day was born in New York in 1922. He was an athlete growing up and was into boxing and track.
In 1942 he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Two years later, Day was on a ship headed to Normandy for D-Day.
The American troops were victorious, but Day doesn’t consider what he did anything special.
“I’m not a hero. The boys that they sent over there that didn’t make it, they’re heroes,” he said.
Day added he is grateful to enjoy this honor while he’s living because many soldiers from that time have died.
Day admitted he never thought this would happen to him.
“Never in 100 years did I think I would ever get this recognition,” he said.
Day’s family said it took them more than two years to get this recognition because proof that Day landed on the beaches of Normandy was needed.