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June 8, 2014

Claremore man receives French Legion of Honor

D-Day veteran Larry Filkins honored aboard USS Texas

CLAREMORE — The USS Texas Battleship provided the essential support to allied troops on Utah Beach and Point du Hoc during what is marked in history as D-Day.

A few days later, the battleship was struck twice by large-caliber coastal defense guns during the Battle of Cherbourg in France. The battleship celebrated its 100 years this year; it is the same ship that fired on Nazi defenses in Normandy on D-Day and is the same ship that the French Government requested as the “best place” to award the liberators.

Friday, June 6, 2014 — the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy — marked another historical moment in history, with the honoring World War II Veterans from Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

The Consul General of France, Sujiro Seam, presented more than 30 veterans the medal of Chevalier in the French Order of the Legion of Honor.  

Among those presented were two Oklahomans, Larry Filkins, Jr. of Claremore and Edward Anderson of Tulsa.

“I could not believe I am receiving more awards. After getting the last three awards, it was two weeks later that I received a letter that I was getting another one and this time from the French Government for my part in their liberation in 1944. That is a long time ago. Getting this now feels wonderful. I am once again honored. My son Steve made the drive with me to Houston,” said Filkins.

“It was very tearful watching them receive their awards,” said Jaree Hefner, Public Relations Specialist for the City of La Porte in Texas. “It was an excellent ceremony. I was able to get about 200 photos of the event. Our US Representative Gene Green, Mayor Louis Rigby and Director Carl Salazar of the City of Houston Office of Veterans Affairs office were here for the event. It was exciting to have it aboard this ship.”

“The Consul General Seam talked about how ‘France never forgot and will never forget how the United States defended their country as if it were their own’,” said Patricia Wilson with the State of Texas State Parks. “The ceremony was amazing. They had a fire boat and a fly over. The Consul General flew here especially for this ceremony, to hand deliver each award. They presented a special gift to the USS Texas Battleship a disc filled with sand from the beaches of Normandy with an inscription that reads, ‘To Our Dear Liberators/6th June 1944 D-Day, 6th June 2014.’  I just thought that was so beautiful. There is a picture of it on our Facebook page under Texas Parks and Wildlife.”

According to Andy Smith, Ship Manager of the USS Texas, between 500-750 people attended the delivery of the “highest, most prestigious, decoration in France.”  It recognizes merit or bravery and is open to men and women of all ranks and professions.

The Department of Veterans Affairs claims there are more than one million surviving WWII Veterans.   

Seam said that one of those survivors is the USS Texas Battleship.

Although 19 heads of state and government gathered in Normandy for D-Day, Seam said there was no other place where they would want the ceremony than aboard the key actor, the USS Texas Battleship.


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