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WWII veteran presented with France’s highest decoration

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By SGT. 1ST CLASS DARRON SALZER

Jack Baker, a veteran who served with First U.S. Army during World War II, was honored for his military service during a ceremony in his hometown of Olive Hill, Kentucky, March 21, more than 70 years after returning home from war.

The event, hosted by Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, commanding general of First Army, included an official presentation by the French government of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest order of merit.

“It’s an honor for me to be here,” said Guillaume Lacroix, consul general of France in Chicago.

“On behalf of the President of the French Republic Mr. Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Baker — from the bottom of my heart — thank you for your service, sir,” Lacroix said.

He added that the liberation of Paris by Soldiers like Baker and other Allied forces during World War II would never be forgotten and is celebrated by the French to this day.

It was but one of several historical events Baker took part in as a First Army Soldier.

“As we studied Mr. Baker’s war service, it became clear that he had literally been in every place and battle that had defined First Army’s own history in World War II, places like the beaches of Normandy, the Cherbourg Forest, St. Lo, and among the first U.S. troops to enter and liberate Paris,” Twitty said.

“He fought in Aachen and in Hurtgen Forest during the Battle of the Bulge, and he was there when U.S. forces crossed the Siegfried Line,” Twitty continued.

What Baker had endured was unthinkable for Twitty, and having had such a paralleled history with the unit he once served Twitty said it was only fitting for him to honor an extraordinary man such as Baker.

First Army is the military’s longest serving field Army and will celebrate its 100th birthday Aug. 10, 2018. The unit has planned centennial events throughout the year to pay tribute to the outstanding Soldiers from its historical lineage.

The event was especially personal for Twitty, who has family ties to the unit he now commands.

“Both of my grandfathers served in First Army during the war, and they did not live to see me command this unit, but I can only imagine the pride they would feel if they were sitting here in front of you today,” Twitty said.

“Today I showcased pictures of them wearing the distinctive First Army patch to Mr. Baker and it was good to share those with him,” he added.

According to Twitty, the unsung heroes of this country are the men and women, like his grandfathers and Baker, who quietly came home and went back to work.

Baker said he doesn’t feel like a hero, but rather, he feels he represents the heroes who were unable to come home from the war.

“The ones that didn’t get back are the ones that deserved it,” he said.

Visibly emotional, Baker said it was a wonderful day.

“It’s really something, isn’t it?” n