While the event was in his honor, Mitchell veteran Jimmy Traupel emphasized he was one of the many brothers in arms who fought.
On Saturday afternoon at the Veterans Park in Mitchell, the 96-year-old World War II veteran was presented with the French Legion of Honor by Guillaume Lacroix, consul general of France to the Midwest Region, for Traupel's contribution to the liberation of France.
“I accept this with (my fellow soldiers) in mind,” Traupel said to a crowd of more than 150 people on hand for the ceremony.
Traupel was a member of the 379th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force. He flew 34 combat missions during World War II, including 13 over France. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with two battle stars, the Good Conduct Medal and one Overseas Service Bar.
“I have a feeling of gratitude for the French people. I have a feeling to the fighters that I flew with. I feel like a grain of sand in the wind, but I feel I’m representing every last one of those guys,” Traupel said. “It’s not an individual thing. It’s not anything individual.“
“(The award) is not for anyone. It’s for very special individuals,” Lacroix said as part of his remarks during the ceremony. “Mr. Traupel came together, with his fellow soldiers, to change our destiny forever.”
When forces from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada stormed the beaches at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, thousands of men took part in a battle on the beaches, on the sea and in the air.
Traupel said his targets weren’t on the beach.
“Adjacent to the beaches there were big guns trying to take care of the hundreds of ships out there,” he said. “That was our target out there that day.”
The award is being given to individuals that had personal involvement in France’s liberation during WWII noting not to take anything away from soldiers fighting in other parts of the world during the war.
“We want to express personal thanks to the people who fought with such level of bravery and selflessness for their country again, but also for the people of France and Europe,” Lacroix said.
Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson also took the opportunity to recognize both Traupel and Lacroix presenting each of them with their own key to the city.
In other ceremonies, French Legion of Honor medals have been presented to Kenneth Higashi, 97, of Spearfish; and Orville B. Lerew, 97, of Faulkton.