FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A 100-year-old Kentucky World War II veteran received France’s highest decoration during a ceremony at the State Capitol on Monday.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. William F. Pollard of Henry County was “pinned” with the French Legion of Honor by Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General to France, before a crowd of friends, family and other well-wishers.
Pollard, then a 25-year-old first lieutenant, was one of the first Americans to land on Omaha Beach at Normandy in June of 1944 in what become known as the D-Day invasion of Europe. However, Consul General Lacroix said: “I know you call it an invasion but, in my country, my people, we call it ‘liberation.’
“What you did was truly amazing,” Lacroix told Pollard. “You are a true American and French hero, a hero to two nations. From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of the French President and the French people, thank you for your service.”
He added: “It’s not a coincidence that Mr. Pollard is a member of America’s greatest generation. We owe so much to America’s greatest generation, the men and women who served their country. Without the sacrifices of America’s greatest generation, Europe would still be divided and under tyranny.”
Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, in whose district Pollard lives, addressed the crowd as well.
“We all know Kentuckians have a rich history of service on our armed forces, from the infancy of our great country, Kentuckians have answered the call. Col. Pollard was no exception; he served a long and distinguished career.”
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who hosted the event and whose office helped make the ceremony possible, said: “It is only fitting that 74 years after he was on Omaha Beach, that we are here today to make sure that not only France, but the United States, honors his heroism with the French Legion of Honor for Lt. Col. Pollard.”
U.S. Army Brigadier General (Ret.) Benjamin F. Adams, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, noted, “The U.S. population in 1945 was about 100 million, so roughly 11 percent of all Americans fought in World War II, 16 million men and women. The greatness of Americans, such as Lt. Col. Pollard, part of the Greatest Generation, stepped forward to fight for freedom when called upon.”
“Today is a day of remembrance, gratitude and exhortation. Lt. Col. Pollard served to secure the blessings of liberty to our nation, and for our friends and allies around the world,” Adams said.
Pollard himself did not speak, but his son, William F. Pollard, Jr., spoke on his behalf, saying “I am enormously proud of my father and grateful to the French Republic for recognizing his actions of almost 75 years ago, awarding him the Legion of Honor today.”
He also read a statement written by his father. “It is the honor of a lifetime that France has chosen me to receive the Legion of Honor. A gift from the French Republic my family and I will always cherish. My heartfelt thanks to Consul General Lacroix for being here today, and gratitude also to the Legion’s committee and to the President of France Emmanuel Macron for this special day in my life.”