JENNINGS — A 97-year-old Welsh man was honored for his heroism during World War II on Tuesday by the French government.
Ambassador of France to the United States Philippe Etienne bestowed the National Order of the Legion of Honor to U.S. Army Private First Class Lawrence “Larry” Boudreaux during a ceremony at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home, where Boudreaux has lived for the past 17 months. The ceremony featured local and state officials, veterans and members of Boudreaux’s family.
Etienne formally pinned the medal on Boudreaux’s suit jacket, which received a standing ovation and round of applause.
“It is an honor to pay a special tribute and bestow this Legion of Honor on behalf of the president of the French Republic to a veteran from Louisiana — our second country — to a man who 75 years ago risked his young life for the liberation of France and Europe,” Etienne said in presenting the award.
“You are a man of courage and nobody deserves to have it more than you,” he continued. “On behalf of the people of France, I offer you our most sincere gratitude for your service. As a very young man you left your family and friends to cross the ocean far from home to take part in some of the furious battles in modern history to help the people of Europe free themselves from tyranny.”
“I thank everyone who came out here to see the ambassador give me the honor medal,” Boudreaux said. “It is a wonderful award and I appreciate the people that came here and the one that gave me the award.”
Boudreaux says he has never forgotten the fight to liberate France. The memories still haunt him, he said.
“We had some bad days and we had some good days,” Boudreaux said. “Sometime I think about it, but I have to put it aside because it’s not great thinking about it all the time.”
Receiving the medal has been emotional, but an honor to accept, he said.
Boudreaux was born in Church Point in March 1922 and was drafted into the Army in February 1943 at the age of 20. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, or “Screaming Eagles,” an elite modular specialized light infantry division trained for air assault operations.
A year later he was sent to Liverpool, England, where he and his fellow soldiers were housed in a horse stable where they trained for the invasion on June 6, 1944. On June 8, Boudreaux and his division were on the beaches of Normandy.
Of the 15 soldiers that got off his boat, nine were sent back to England for medical treatment after being injured in the invasion.
Boudreaux, who received shrapnel and an injured leg, was awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his bravery on the battlefield.
Boudreaux recovered and was sent back to his division to train to go to Holland in September of 1944. He and his fellow soldiers were sent to “protect the British from the Germans” during the Battle of Aachean.
He spent 73 days on the frontlines before being honorably discharged on Dec. 4, 1945.
After the war, Boudreaux moved to Welsh where he worked his way up the Welsh Police Department ranks before serving as police chief for five years.