Four combat veterans honored by France in ceremony at NAS Fort Worth

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- Four U.S. World War II combat veterans from North Texas on Tuesday received France's highest decoration for their service on the French battlefield.

Frédéric Bontems, Consul General of France in Houston, thanked the veterans for their roles in liberating his country and pinned the Knight in the French Order of the Legion of Honor on the men during a ceremony at Naval Air Station Fort Worth.

Receiving the honor were James H. Drumwright, 90, of Richardson; Edward W. Samuell, 89, of Dallas; Bruce Davis, 88, of Mansfield; and Ken Brower, 93, of Benbrook.

"I feel a little bad because I never got shot down or had some of the things happen to me that happened to other guys," said Davis, who flew B-26s in the Air Force. "But this is a really wonderful thing they are doing for us. I'm happy to be here."

The Legion of Honor is France's highest distinction and was created to honor extraordinary contributions to the country, according to information from the French consulate in Boston. The Legion was founded in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte.

To receive the honor, the veterans must have fought in at least one of the four campaigns of the Liberation of France -- Normandy, Provence, Ardennes or Northern France.

In recent months, U.S. World War II veterans have also received the honor in Houston and Florida.

"It is just a fantastic presentation today for four of our war heroes," said Capt. Robert Bennett, NAS Fort Worth base commander. "They changed our world, literally. They fought back tyranny and provided that freedom across the globe."

Now in their late 80s and early 90s, the veterans moved slowly into the ballroom accompanied by spouses, children and grandchildren. Drumwright, who arrived in a wheelchair, said he always appreciated the care and support French citizens showed the American soldiers doing battle.

Drumwright was injured by shrapnel to the knee at Omaha Beach, a family member said.

"When I was in France the people treated us very well," Drumwright said. "I owe my life to a couple of them."

Bontems said awarding U.S. veterans the honor was a special task. He recalled a few months ago being in El Paso for a similar ceremony and meeting a D-Day veteran who parachuted into Normandy. One of the paratroopers gave him a special gift.

"He gave me a fragment of the parachute he used that day to jump," Bontems said. "He had kept it with him. It was an incredible moment and there were tears in many eyes, including mine."

The event stirred memories for some of the veterans. Samuell, an Army veteran, sat with his wife Kay, who was an Army nurse during the war. The couple that has been married for 66 years first met when he was her patient in Germany, Kay Samuell said.

"He told me 'If I ever get out of here, I'm going to marry you,'" she said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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