By Michael Howell
Five Montanans received the French Medal of Honor at a ceremony held at the Ravalli County Veterans Memorial in Heironymous Park in Hamilton last Saturday. The five veterans of World War II fought on French territory in Normandy, Southern France, Northern France, and the Ardennes, participating in the Liberation of France in 1945.
Deputy Consul General of France Corinne Pereira addressed the crowd gathered at the monument, saying, “Today we are celebrating five heroes whose courage, faith and dedication contributed, more than 60 years ago, to defend and preserve the omnipotence of France and to conserve our values of freedom, tolerance and democracy.”
The WWII veterans being honored were Roy Cantrell from Bozeman, Willard LaCounte from Billings, Paul Winhofer from Glendive and Edwin Ward from Billings. Also honored but unable to attend was Bud Olson of Choteau.
Deputy Consul Pereira concluded, saying, “It is really difficult for me, if not almost impossible, to imagine how much courage and bravery it must have required to land on the coast of France in 1944 and to save France and Europe from sheer hell. Courage and bravery are precisely the qualities Napoleon wanted to reward when he created the Legion of Honor in 1802. You rescued many people that you did not know. Those people, who you didn’t know, have not forgotten. Those people and their children and their grandchildren, and I am one of them, have not forgotten. We will never forget.”
The Montanans received their medals and were honored with a 21-gun salute.